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“Food Takes Up a Huge Part of a Mother’s Life”

January 17, 2011 •  2 comments.

 •  Blog, News

In our work to protect families, we are fortunate to meet remarkable parents from around the globe who are advocating on behalf of children. Sarah Chapman is a mother of four in the UK who has been featured in the British press, worked with members of government and done other extraordinary things to protect children. Her candid comments about the high price of organic foods and the struggles facing mothers every day appear below.

Submitted by Sarah Chapman, food allergy advocate in the United Kingdom, mother of four

I am aware that, when it comes to food, I am a different consumer, I am brand loyal, spending longer time in the supermarket than other mothers, and often have some research homework to do before buying a new product.

My shopping behaviour is different; I pick up an item, scan the whole packet, read the small print, and more often than not, put the item back. As I am getting older, I need reading glasses, which often sit lop sided on the top of my head, until I need to read a label.

I am the mother of four, and one child has life threatening food allergies, (and one teen is a rampant veggie,) so that changes your view of food.

British mothers are in general quite aware of food, the middle class mother is incredibly aware of the importance of a good diet for their children. However certain innocence prevails and so many contradictions in ideas and views, such on the amount of sugar, fat and fibre, that many have hazy ideas of what a young child’s diet should contain.

Food is a highly political subject, and as i type this there is a campaign on fish starting in the UK, by a collection of famous chefs, to save the fish in our seas, we are being encouraged to eat differing types of fish, rather than those at risk of extinction.

We are really rather lucky that our food has such strict labelling laws, our allergy labelling, is part of the EU guidelines. I have been able to go in to Italian, Spanish and French supermarkets and find an allergen label in English on the packet, in small print.

The UK has banned artificial colours and preservatives in food aimed at children, so food like yogurts, cereal, biscuits and sweets have dramatically changed. I didn’t really notice this huge improvement until i could compare like for like with USA food. When my children first saw the joys of lucky charms, and captain crunch, they asked me in shocked, but thrilled tones, ‘do American children have sweets for breakfast, every day’? No, said I, ‘their mothers buy boring non sugar cereals like me, and save this sort for high days and holidays.’

But, I have to admit, finding a low /non sugar cereal, was near impossible, in the UK rice krispies, corn flakes, do contain sugar, and its reasonably low on the ingredient list. But American counterparts, all contain, sugar and then high fructose sugar. We tried one version and everyone said it was much too sweet, and refused to eat it. The same happened with sliced bread, to the extent that none of us enjoyed a sandwich or toast. It seems that the British tastes buds are not as sweet as American ones. Have to add though, that those who could eat pancakes safely (i.e. the non egg allergic) found them to be fantastic, and my older teen boys enjoyed huge piles of them! When it comes to fatty foods, i think we are pretty equal, fish and chips for instance, is hardly a low fat food, but it is one of my favourites!

The colour of food is one of the most eye catching things about American food and drink, its, well, amazingly fluorescent………and not in a good way. The colour of many fruit/tropical punches was the same shade of many floor cleaning liquids back home! I am afraid that i am of the opinion that if food or drink looks like it has the capacity to glow in the dark, it is not safe to consume!

American allergen labelling is about 10yrs behind England, and it does feel that I am stepping back in time when i read the labels. Poor content labelling, absent may contain on highly suspect foods, all gave me pause for thought. The same branded foods, one with peanut butter and one without, and the non peanut version must have a chance of cross contamination, but no warning. No warning doesn’t mean safe, without further explanation. So a whole brand to be avoided, if that is the case.

Ironically the UK has many odd , differing forms of may contain warning, and sometimes we have good reason to think a warning is slapped on , by manufactures just in case, (which is not legal btw , but happens) , so you have to pause and consider a label before saying yes or no. This attitude of cautious over labelling can be the cause of accidental ingestion and reactions, because its meaning is lost when frequently over used, but the USA lack of labelling must be the cause of reactions. So the UK has many good points, but we still have many improvements to make.

Threshold is a subject that many manufactures would love to have and they spend money on this research, but in reality threshold is so variable, and often, with the case of IgE allergies, dependant on persons state of health at time of ingestion. So in my opinion is nothing but a dream.

There is no doubt that food takes up a huge part of a mother’s life, and this one has long given up worrying about others opinions, i buy some select organic foods every week, like milk, eggs and chicken. I buy high fat junk foods, like sausage rolls for my kid’s school lunch. I buy bottled water, real mineral spring water, not bottled tap water, I buy chocolate. I buy lots of non organic foods, but i don’t buy tinned soup. So my shopping basket is a mix of everything. My concerns are the safety of the food for my food allergic son, and the money in my purse. Having a food allergic child in the home, means more money is spent on the few choices of food we can have. I do my best, like everyone else, and if I gain 10 minutes peace from my children by giving them sweets or chocolate, in front of the TV, I don’t feel guilty, and neither should any other parent.

Steve Colbert Sheds a Funny Light on Kids’ Foods

January 15, 2011 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News

Just when you thought you couldn’t handle another headline about the obesity epidemic, heart disease, our messy food supply or PepsiCo’s desire to “snackify” drinks and “drinkify” snacks, along comes Steve Colbert with a shot of humor about what we are doing to our kids and their food supply.

Grab a cup of coffee and tune in. The Colbert Report is sure to make you smile:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Thought for Food – Fruit Pouch, Doritos Ad & Super Big Gulp<a>
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> Video Archive

Got What It Takes? Will Smith Thinks You Do…

January 8, 2011 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News

Like many, as I came through the New Year, I couldn’t help but reflect on what transpired in 2010 and the enormous dedication of those working to protect the health of children.

It was a year full of emotion, challenges, opportunities and revelations. So when I saw the You Tube video below which features Will Smith, I found myself nodding in agreement.

Not just because he mentions one of my favorite books, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, but because he encourages us with the following words:

Greatness exists in all of us
There’s no shortcut to success
Dedicate yourself to being better every day
Focus on making a difference
Represent an idea
Nothing is unrealistic
Focus with all of your fiber, heart and creativity
Attack your fear
Protect your dream

He closes with some wise words about the Truth, inspiring us saying, “You want something? Go get it. Period.”

Got 9 minutes? You may just want to watch this one…..

Fluorescent Mac and Cheese and Mutiny at the Kitchen Table

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I was recently asked by a reporter (who also happens to be a mom) what advice I give to parents who want to wean their kids off of artificial colors. It’s a great question, and for someone who had four kids hooked on tubes of blue yogurt and fluorescent mac and cheese, I can relate to the challenge it presents as it’s hard enough just getting kids to eat. The last thing that any mom wants is mutiny at the kitchen table!

But when I learned that Kraft, Coca Cola and Wal-Mart formulate their products differently for kids in other countries, so that the noodles, sodas and treats they put on grocery store shelves in places like the UK don’t contain artificial colors like yellow #5 because of the concern over its link to hyperactivity, I had to try to wean my kids off of those same synthetic ingredients.

So below, in response to the reporter’s query, is a list of ways that you can reduce your kids’ exposure to those artificial colors that aren’t being used in kids’ products in other countries.

And remember, this isn’t about being perfect. It’s about doing what you can, with what you know and what you have. And in my case, that started with four picky eaters, a limited budget and limited time. But as we began to wean our kids off of the artificial colors, and teach them how kids in other countries don’t have these ingredients in their foods because of their links to hyperactive behavior, the kids decided to opt-out, too, preventing kitchen table mutiny.

  • Opt for white yogurt (instead of blue or pink) and let your kids color their own with colored sprinkles (it reduces the load of artificial colors, while preserving fun)
  • Instead of the entire pack of yellow powder that comes with the box of mac and cheese, use half of the pack (and toss the rest), as again it reduces the load of chemicals without mutiny at the kitchen table (by kids who are accustomed to seeing fluorescent mac and cheese!)
  • Instead of the multi-colored goldfish, switch to the pretzel version of goldfish as once again this goes a long way to reducing your child’s exposure to artificial colors.
  • Instead of M&Ms, opt for a handful of chocolate chips (better yet, if you can get away with it, opt for raisins – or a mixture!) – no need to nix sweets, just the chemicals found in the artificial colors
  • Instead of flavored conventional ice creams (like strawberry that can be loaded with artificial colors), offer vanilla ice cream and toppings (like chocolate chips)
  • Instead of colored fruit punch, opt for juices free of artificial colors, like Kraft’s Capri Sun.
  • Instead of bags of chips, colored and flavored with artificial orange, offer your kids pretzels or crackers to dip into things like ketchup, mustard or salad dressings.

And just as we didn’t wean our kids from a sippy cup overnight or potty train them in one day (or maybe you did!), this is a process, so give yourself the grace and flexibility to move through it at your own pace and embrace the 80/20 Rule, where you do a good job 80% of the time and the other 20% of the time, you acknowledge that we live in the real world, with real kids on real budgets.

Got a story to share? Or a tip that we didn’t list? We’d love to hear from you. So post a comment below or Contact Us, because together, we can affect remarkable change in the health of our children.