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When in Doubt, Do Without!

Our son always comes home grinning from ear-to-ear when he receives an invitation to a friend’s birthday party. Usually, there is joy and excitement in anticipation of the festivities that ensue. We will be the first to admit that prior to having a child with a severe food allergy, we never really gave it much thought as to whether a child attending our son’s party had a food allergy. We will even fully admit that we have had experience with food allergies and asthma at different stages of our lives, but nothing as serious as the potential for anaphylaxis reactions we must now manage with our son.

Upon receipt of an invitation, there are many questions and additional planning that must happen to allow our son to participate. Where will the party be held? What food will be served? Most parents are receptive to our inquiries but not all are accommodating. We have some that really bend over backwards and others that don’t accommodate at all. We appreciate those that put thought into trying to include him. Part of us realizes that is not our son’s party so why should others take the time or change what food they plan to serve for one child? On the other hand, why do they invite him if they don’t want him to fully enjoy in the fun like all the other guests?

Over the holiday break, our son did attend a birthday party for one of his classmates. Her parents were aware of his food allergy so there were numerous communications back and forth. I asked her parents what they were planning to serve and they made ever effort to try to accommodate him. When we arrived for the party, we asked to review the labels for the food items they planned to serve. We then learned that the cake came from a local grocery store bakery that is known for having products containing nuts and discloses that their baked good items are produced in a facility with nuts. We were very hopeful as the parents indicated that the bakery told them the cake was nut free. However, when we reviewed the box and ingredients, we determined that the cake was peanut free but did not appear to be nut-free. Of course, this would pose a problem! Does the bakery not understand the difference between peanut-free and nut-free?

Peanuts are a legume and have a different protein construct then all other nuts which are classified as tree nuts. While at the party, we called the bakery’s corporate office directly to determine if the cake was indeed peanut free or completely nut-free. Unfortunately, the employee we spoke with had no idea. What? How is the possible? The employee then indicated that she would need to consult a fellow colleague and we would receive a return call within the hour. We gave the employee our name and number and thanked her for the prompt attention she was giving to our question at least we thought. It is has now been over a month and we are still waiting for a return call from that bakery. As a result, our son could not have the birthday cake as it is our policy when in doubt do without!

As always, we came prepared with another option for him, but we could not help feeling terrible for the birthday girl's parents who did everything right to ensure that our son could participate to only be undermined by the lack of education that exists when it comes to food allergies. Where is the regulation that requires this type of instruction for anyone who serves food for public consumption? Have you run into similar circumstances? If so, please share your stories.

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