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