As is often my habit I engage in what I view as philosophical debates on facebook. I acknowledge the futility of these actions, truly, but in this manner I’m rather like a cow through an electric fence… MOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! [I am nothing if not extremely self aware and critical.]
More recently I engaged in a debate of which has spurred me to write a few posts about celiac disease, non-celiac gluten intolerance, and living the gluten free life – but for now I wanted to talk about something else. Something I had never had to consider before. Specific and limited dietary requirements of a child.
There are many food allergies out there, to be sure the variety is probably just about as long a list as the foods that are eaten, but the top five are substances many of us have copious amounts of in our diet.
- Milk – Luckily for adults, children are by far the most likely age group to have allergies to milk. Most children grow out of this allergy during their early childhood. Individuals unlucky enough to remain allergic to milk their whole life will never get to enjoy some especially delicious foods, such as cheese and ice cream.
- Tree nuts – Allergies related to tree nuts are responsible for some of the most dangerous and possibly deadly food allergies in existence. Some examples of commonly consumed tree nuts: walnuts, Brazil nuts, pistachios, almonds, and cashews.
- Peanuts – The amount of people that are allergic to peanuts is very close in number to the amount of people that are allergic to tree nuts. Individuals allergic to peanuts must also remember to avoid any foods that contain even trace amount of peanuts, such as certain types of Asian or Mexican dishes.
- Wheat – Children and adults alike often suffer from allergies to wheat. An allergy to wheat can be very difficult and expensive to overcome. This is because wheat is by the far the most commonly used grain product in the United States.
- Eggs – As many as 1.5% of American children are allergic to eggs! Luckily, just like milk, most children outgrow this allergy by the time that they are three years old.
Given this list as well as substantial documentation regarding nut allergies you can guess the substances that are most typically banned (in case you couldn’t, it would be peanuts and tree nuts). There have been cases where special measures were taken where six year olds in a Florida school were told they had to wash their hands when entering the classroom, wash out their mouths, all while a dog capable of sniffing out nuts (there was NO good way to phrase that, sorry) was brought in to ensure the room was safe for one child. In instances like this it’s easy to question whether or not a ban on nuts would have even made more sense. Certainly it would have been cheaper as well as easier on teachers should a ban have actually been followed.
Forgetting for a moment that bans never work, I thought about what would happen if they did. If all parents followed the rules for the sake of one child – what would happen? Would anyone’s nutrition be lacking as a result of this measure?
The undeniable answer for me was this: My kid. Other kids with celiac’s or wheat allergies. A child raised vegan with a soy allergy.
What makes any rule that would have adverse impact upon the health of other children, but possibly almost/maybe/kind of – sort of aid in insuring the health of another (but not really, because there’s really no way to know whether or not the food has actually been exposed to nuts – like my gf pumpkin muffins), tenable?
The assumption seems to be that the minority, when it has special needs, should be catered to by the majority even when sacrifice is required OR that the majority should have its way even if it penalizes the minority (majority rules, yes?). Perhaps if one never stopped to consider other people’s dietary restrictions and needs the peanut/nut argument would be easy. If it saves a life/lives then it’s good, right?
Forget for the moment that this pseudo-philosophical argument is the same one that’s gotten the US into countless wars, and try and ignore the fact that we are really addressing children- is there ever justification for putting in place a ban that would, by putting direct restrictions on other kids’ food sources, adversely impact their/his/her health?
My stance is pretty simple, even if it sounds without compassion, and that is no. We can not ignore the needs of all other children and operate on the assumption that what is being demanded will NOT have a negative effect (talk to folks with celiac and ask how much of their diet is comprised of nuts, or vegans). This is merely a justification for the needs of that child to supersede all others. The same issue could be brought about through addressing kids with extreme autoimmune disorders that are not related to food allergies and thereby can not have vaccinations. Would it be fair to force every child to have every single immunization available because one child is that much more susceptible to diseases and viruses?
I know these are hard questions, and some of the answers are really hard to come by. Admittedly, the thought of people thinking I’m cheering for children to die forces me to be quiet more than I even think is prudent. In the end I have only one real thought: “My child’s health, which is now good and was hard won, will not be sacrificed (never mind forcibly).”
There is no advocating of punishment in these words as I rebuke the call for bans (I really will address how they don’t work in another post), but merely the assertion that the world is as it is and to make rules that DO adversely impact a population is to punish others who did nothing wrong beyond not having the worst known food allergy. If health and thriving are what matters then is it ever appropriate to choose who is permitted to?