One of the biggest pet peeves of American parents is that a lot of food companies have already removed artificial dyes and colors from the products that they sell overseas. The maker of M&Ms, Mars, has always been one of them. Back in 2008, when I was writing my book, I shared this comment when Mars UK decided to remove artificial dyes from their M&Ms. The date was 2006.
“We know that artificial colours are of concern to consumers, which is why, in 2006, Mars began a programme to remove them from our products. . . in November 2007, Starburst Chews became free from all artificial colours. . . . in December 2007, Skittles were made free from all the artificial colours highlighted in a landmark study by Southampton University. . . We have already removed four colours mentioned in the Southampton study from Peanut and Choco M&M’s, and are in the process of removing the final one so they too will be free from these artificials during 2008.”—Mars UK
Mars, Inc.’s finally took action in the U.S. this week, ten years later, announcing that it will get synthetic food dyes out of its entire human food portfolio is a huge advance for parents and children and should serve as a powerful incentive for the rest of the food industry to follow suit.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has been a leading voice on this for a decade. Their report, “Rainbow of Risks” is one that many of us have leaned on as authors, parents and advocates. They wrote, “We appreciate the fact that Mars listened to our concerns and to the concerns of its customers and that it is exercising this kind of responsible leadership.
The Food and Drug Administration should level the playing field for the whole industry by banning Yellow 5, Red 40, and other synthetic dyes used in food. There is simply too much evidence demonstrating that these artificial dyes trigger inattention, hyperactivity, and other behavioral reactions in children. The use of these neurotoxic chemicals to provide a purely cosmetic function in foods, particularly foods designed to appeal to children, must stop.
Mars’ action is not only a big victory for parents; it is also a big victory by parents. We’ve been pleased to work with moms and dads from around the country who have written to the FDA, contacted food companies, and signed petitions like the one focused on Mars that Renee Shutters started on Change.org. It shows that when consumers make their voices heard, food companies will sometimes actually listen.”
Last year, I was contacted by members of the team from Mars, and I shared my candid thoughts. If these food companies want to remain relevant in the 21st century and in this new food economy, they can no longer deny the will of their consumers who want food that is free-from all of these artificial ingredients.
It is time to #dumpthejunk. Thank you, Mars, for listening.
Kayleigh Peters is a 17 year old who decided to share a few thoughts for parents of little ones with food allergies in a Facebook group. Her post went viral in the food allergy community and was shared immediately. It is honest, heartfelt and so true, and it shines a light on food allergies and what it teaches us.
Meet Kayleigh, one amazing high school girl:
“Hi, I’m a 17 year old who has lived with a severe (as in contact and airborne reactive) allergy to peanuts since I was born.
Later I added soy and tree nut, and I am now peanut, treenut, soy, lentils, beans, peas, and wheat allergic.
I know that some of parents on this page are just now becoming introduced into the severe allergy world, and I want to offer some reassurance from the child perspective. I went to a public elementary school. I was given a “peanut-free table” at lunch even though on Thursdays the cafeteria served PB&J sandwiches. I ended up in the Nurses office every Thursday. I wasn’t able to play on the playground because of the contact, but still went to class with all the other children.
Throughout my elementary school years I became very close with the school nurse, but I never used my Epi at school even if I know I probably should have. The first time I used it I was 8 years old and I was at a birthday party. I ate peanut butter cup ice cream and within 5 minutes I couldn’t breathe. My parents weren’t there and the friends parents had to give me the Epi and call the ambulance.
This was probably the most terrifying moment for my parents when they got the call. But, I want to tell all of the parents out there that I turned out okay. I was raised in the time before the severity of allergies was understood, but I was still able to live my life.
Severe allergies are scary. I know this as well as anyone. I also have severe asthma. I’ve been in and out of the hospital all my life.
Yes, it’s harder for me to go out to eat or go on the same adventures that the other kids my age go one, but I still live my life.
Don’t let allergies hold you back or hold your child back. Everyone has obstacles in their lives.
Those of us with allergies have to learn til read labels, advocate for ourselves, inform others about who we are, we learn to scan crowds for candy bars being eaten by others, we learn to wipe down seats and tables, we learn to answer weird questions like “what happens if I eat it then lick you?”, we learn how nice the EMSA people can be.
Everything is a learning experience. But we can do it. Do not feel that you have to seclude yourself from the world because of you or your child’s allergies. Yes, this world is scarier when you have allergies. Yes, there are many many people out there who do not understand what we have to go through. But it is our job to not give up. We have to educate those around us. We have to keep living.
I just felt that sometimes that sort of thing needs to be said.
-From a girl who has lived with severe allergies and asthma all her life and has still gone to France for 2 weeks without her parents, dozens of road trips, public schools, airplanes, restaurants, and is going to Bangladesh in a month.
It’s going to be okay. It’s a scary world, but you are all strong. Your child will learn so much. They will be strong, independent, self-advocators.
You can do it.”
Written By Daniella Knell for SunButter
Sending your child with food allergies off to school can be overwhelming. Trusting others to keep your kid safe is probably your #1 priority! For me, educating myself and others was the only way I could create a safer learning environment for both my children and their caregivers.
As food allergy parents, we constantly wonder, “What if something happens?” In my opinion, a more productive question is, “Does the person taking care of my child know what to do if and when something happens?”
It is all about education.
That’s the key to making sure that your answer to the above question is, “Yes, my child is in good hands.” When people don’t understand food allergies, they don’t know how to protect people who have them. The first step is educating—educating yourself, educating your child, and educating others. This guide will help you educate those around you most effectively.
To effectively educate others, you will need to partner with your school. Know that your attitude sets the tone. This will make or break how your school will or won’t work with you. If you go in with a steamroller approach with demands, you’re likely to meet resistance. Have you ever heard the saying, “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar?” Approach your school with a positive, understanding attitude and you are more likely to see positive, understanding results!
Find Educational Resources YOU Trust. You can direct others to these resources and use them to bolster your position. They will also help you remember that you aren’t alone! Here are links to some of my favorites.
- FAACT – Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team FAACT is currently my favorite because I find them the easiest to navigate and LOVE their primary focus on education. TheirSchool Curricula Program offers ready to share presentations for the classrooms, beginning with K thru 3.
- FARE – Food Allergy Research & Education FARE’s ‘Be A Pal: Protect a Life’ program spotlights Alexander the Elephant and his circle of food allergy friends. I still use portions of this program when presenting to preschool and early elementary school children.
- KFA – Kids with Food Allergies KFA hasan entirepage dedicated to keeping kids with food allergies safe at schools, including free guides and handouts!
Find a Food Allergy Action Plan (FAAP) YOU Like. Your allergist fills out this form outlining actions to be taken by a caregiver in the instance your child has an allergic reaction while in their care. Here is one place you can start: Children’s Physician Network Food Allergy Action Plan
4. Management Plan
Figure out WHAT KIND of Management Plan Your Child Will Need. IHP? IEP? Or 504? If your child has life threatening food allergies, they may be considered as a qualified student with disabilities under the Americans with Disability Act (ACT) Amendments Act of 2008.Section 504 of the Rehabilitation ACT of 1973 requires that the school district to provide a “free and appropriate education” (FAPE). Then again, this will depend on whether they are attending a school receiving ANY federal funding, and laws can vary from state to state. DON’T be overwhelmed! Your allergist can help you out!
5. Gather Resources
Find some books and videos you like. My favorites include: the ENTIRE No Biggie Bunchseries, The Bugabees, The Princess and the Peanut, and the Alexander the Elephant Who Couldn’t Eat Peanuts – Gets a Babysitter
6. Create a School Food Allergy Binder
Put together useful Resources and have a copy available to share with the nurse and teacher. I would also include some kind of handy labels you can use to mark ‘SAFE’ snacks or a snack box for your child. Any kind of label will work. Here’s an example of the ones I personally designed: S.A.F.E. Food Allergy Labels.
Find samples of food allergy flyers on line which you like. Just type in ‘peanut free’, ‘allergy free’ pics in your favorite search engine and you will find ALL kinds of different flyers you can use. Have these different options available to share with school personnel.
8. Meet with People
Meet with the Principal. Meet with school nurse. Meet with your child’s teacher. This is your opportunity to meet with everyone and explain your concerns. Let the individuals know you’re wanting to partner with the school to create a SAFE and enjoyable learning environment for everyone. It will be at this time you will find out what previous experiences these individuals have had in managing food allergies. You may be pleasantly surprised. You may be disappointed. Most importantly, you will be prepared to decide what direction you need to go in moving forward with your school.
9. Have Your Child Meet with ALL of the People They Will Meet
This is the opportunity to show your child all the individuals around them whom are working to keep them SAFE. Don’t underestimate the NEED for your child to need to feel this comfort. They don’t WANT to feel singled out, but they also need to feel SAFE.
10. Get Involved!
Set up a time to go in and read stories, show a video, whatever it is you want to do to make learning about food allergies FUN! In the beginning it may be nerve racking.
Daniella Knell, owner of Smart Allergy~Friendly Education, is mother to two children with food allergies. You can find her displaying her public speaking skills in local schools and hospitals, blogging, and presenting allergy~friendly smoothie videos. For allergy~friendly ideas for your household, visit Daniella’s website, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
It’s not often that you are able to identify without a shadow of a doubt a person that changed the world overnight. Becky, a single mom of two, did just that.
In 2012, she decided that in order to help food allergy families during Halloween, she’d put out a teal pumpkin on her doorstep to signify that she had treats available that were safe food kids with food allergies.
According to Allergic Child, “It was in the fall of 2012 that Becky Basalone, the director of a local food allergy support group, first had the bright idea of painting a pumpkin teal, the color of food allergy awareness, and handing out non-food items. What she didn’t know was that her green-blue pumpkin would become a nationwide symbol for Halloween food-allergy awareness. In fact, it’s even taking off in Canada and Britain.”
Needless to say, the idea took off. Today, food allergies impact 1 in 13 kids and send someone to the emergency room once every three minutes in the United States.
We’ve got a problem with food, and we need solutions, and Becky’s idea is just that. She created the Teal Pumpkin Project as a way to let trick or treaters know that a house offered non-food treats like stickers, bubbles, glow-sticks and pencils to hand out.
Last year, the Teal Pumpkin Project™ was wildly and widely embraced by parents around the country. We loved it. It was smart and easy and practical. The idea has now been trademarked by FARE (Food Allergy and Research Education). FARE licenses its use out to food retailers and food manufacturers at Halloween and restricts its use.
We never want to lose sight of the mom in Tennessee that is behind this brilliant idea.
She is one of our absolute favorite Food Heroes here at AllergyKids.
Meet Becky, the incredible mom and visionary behind the Teal Pumpkin Project™ (you can learn more about how to license its use here).
Your Name: Becky Basalone
Civil Servant and Founder/Director of the Food Allergy Community of East Tennessee (FACET).
Your Blog/Website/Twitter Profile:
Your Go-to food that you cannot live without:
I’ve learned that there is no food product that I could not live without – I typically adjust well when it’s necessary – BUT I’d be grumpy for a while if I had to give up chocolate.
What characteristic do you most admire in a person?
Integrity – there are so many good qualities that may be directly related to this one characteristic in a person.
What do you most deplore?
Selfishness, dishonesty and rudeness
What is your best trait?
I’m having a hard time answering this so I’m going to say that my best trait is that I’m extremely humble.
Which person living or dead would you most like to have a meal with?
I’d like to meet my paternal grandmother. She died many years before I was born.
What would you serve?
A whole buffet of her favorite foods (our family recipes).
What trait do you most deplore in our food?
It is disgusting that we have a food system full of chemicals that actually cause cancer and other health problems/conditions.
If you could deliver five words to Congress what would they be?
Clenched fists can’t shake hands.
If the USDA asked you to replace the word “organic,” what would you use? I would say “authentic” or “real” but unfortunately we know that those words have been misused and adulterated by the food industry much in the same way as the term “organic.” Ideally, it would be awesome to see a food system in which the chemically-laden and processed junk food needs its own classification and not the other way around.
If you were a piece of food, what would you be?
This question makes me laugh because it reminds me of a saying, “If I were a vegetable, I’d be a radish because I’d like to think I’m kind of rad.” No, but really, those little vegetables are bright, somewhat shy, strong, resilient, grounded and never pretend to be something that they aren’t. I like that and would like to think that description also sums me up pretty well. (Please see the best trait question above)
What is your current state of mind?
What is your motto? I have a few mottos that I try to live by each day: 1. Just keep swimming (ha!). 2. Nothing is impossible. 3. Do all things in the Glory of God.
Did you know that according to the National Retail Federation, there will be over $1 billion in candy sales this Halloween? In 2005, the average American consumed 25.7 pounds of candy, per capita, much of it around Halloween. And on top of that, the CDC recently reported that 1in 3 Americans are expected to have diabetes in the next forty years.
So what’s a parent to do? It’s Halloween, for crying out loud!
When trick-or-treating entered the American scene in the 1920s, neighbors gave children items like apples, pastries, breads and even money. So why, 40 years later, are there $1 billion in candy sales each Halloween? How has food marketing taken over this tradition?
“Companies went after Halloween candy a long time ago,” says Nancy Childs, Ph.D., professor of food marketing. “Candy companies are active and aggressive marketers who offer convenient, pre-packaged treats to fulfill the tradition.”
But have you ever read the side of a candy box?
According to Pure Fun Candy, the FDA does not monitor artificial colors, flavors and preservatives nor require that they be tested. Rather, the concept of “threshold of toxicological concern” has been proposed by the FDA to set acceptable daily intake for chemicals of unknown toxicity, apparently on the theory that a little bit can’t hurt. But have you ever seen a kid eat a ‘little bit’ of candy?
On top of that, research published in The Lancet, a leading medical journal in the UK, suggests that these additives do affect the brain chemistry of children, causing hyperactivity and ADHD like behavior. The research is so strong that Wal-Mart in the UK agreed to ban these ingredients in children’s foods and government agencies around the world have banned or removed these chemical additives in children’s foods. But American kids still consume these additives in record amounts, especially at Halloween.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
And while sugar is still sugar, organic candy does not contain toxic pesticides, high fructose corn syrup or other chemicals or genetically modified ingredients (ingredients engineered into corn and soy by the agrichemical industry to help these plants produce their own insecticides or withstand increasing doses of weed killers) that aren’t used in children’s foods in other countries.
But with budgets tight, that’s not an option to most families, But given reports by CNN addressing toxicity in children and a Senate hearing in 2011 in which CNN’s medical correspondent, Sanjy Gupta, addressed the same, perhaps we should take a cue from parents in the 27 countries in the European Union, in Canada, Australia and try to avoid the ingredients that their government agencies have banned in children’s foods – things like high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, MSG and those genetically engineered ingredients producing their own insecticides.
Do One Thing
So while we can’t make the perfect the enemy of the good, we can all do something, focusing on progress not perfection. So maybe this Halloween, you can opt-out of juice that contains high fructose corn syrup or artificial colors as a way to reduce your children’s exposure. Or when it comes to that inevitable deluge of candy, you can offer to engage your kids in a candy swap. For every few pieces of conventional candy that they collect, trade them in for a healthier treat, a sticker or some small toy.
Or better yet, write a letter to the Great Pumpkin. Apparently, he’s been known to bring little presents like gift cards or a book to children who leave their candy baskets outside the front door for him in the first week of November.
You can make a difference in the health of your family. The opportunity is enormous, and the time is now.
To learn more about ways to protect your children from genetically engineered ingredients in Halloween candy, you can visit the Non-GMO Project’s Guide to Halloween.
Additional information is also available at www.greenhalloween.org