But what about milk, egg, tree nut, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish allergic individuals, not to mention those with allergies to non top 8 foods? While peanut allergies do tend to have the highest rate of anaphylaxis, any food can trigger a fatal anaphylactic reaction. So the question is, why is it more important we avoid peanut products than avoiding other allergens that could potentially make others extremely sick?
This question brings to light the privilege of the peanut allergy. You see, being asked to avoid peanut products while around a peanut allergic individual, while potentially annoying, most reasonable people would probably do it because modern culture tells them they should. But if we switch the allergen to milk, suddenly the request is no longer reasonable. Why? Because milk is much more widespread than peanut products and is therefore "unfair" to ask others to avoid even if it could have the same health effects to an individual with a milk allergy as peanuts do to an individual with a peanut allergy.
I am not suggesting we begin banning all potential allergens from places that currently ban peanuts because that would be a logistical nightmare. What we can do is unite the fight against food allergies. We must remember, we are fighting for the safety of those with food allergies. If this means that we are going to put up a fight when peanut protein is added to foods because we are concerned about labeling, then we need to not only fight for peanut cross contamination to be better labeled but for all potential allergen contamination to be better labeled. If we are going to fight about loosing safe foods than we can't just fight when peanuts are added to foods as fillers but we must fight when milk and soy are added as fillers. If we are going to fight to get peanuts from being served on airplanes for the basis of airborne allergies, we must fight for those with other airborne allergies to be able to safely fly. If we are going to create lists of safe snacks for those with peanut allergies, we should be creating lists of safe snacks for all allergens. We can not shame those with allergies other than peanuts for eating peanut products just as we can not shame those with only peanut allergies for eating foods with other allergens.
The truth is, the food allergy world isn't fair and it probably will never be. Schools will probably not go top 8 or even all allergen free and baseball stadiums and movie theaters will probably never offer a completely allergy free night. But, we can create equality in the way we raise awareness about food allergies. With Food Allergy Awareness Week around the corner, it is important we give all allergies an equal voice this year. There is no reason to make one allergen seem like it is worst than another or that it deserves more awareness. Each allergen (or combination of allergens) comes with a unique set of challenges as well as a unique set of benefits. So there is no reason to be Team Peanut or Team Milk or Team Shellfish. Together, we can be Team Food Allergy because our voices joined together can create more change than when they are by themselves.
So I leave you all with this question, feel free to comment below. How do we better unite as a food allergy community?