September 14th is National Quiet Day, a day when you can find a little sanctuary in silence.
Maybe you can take time out, maybe you can celebrate silence, given we’ve had quite a few weeks to do that this year, sadly. Or maybe, like me, you want to create an almost ‘Anti Quiet Day’ and you want to shout about something!
I’m definitely going to take the opportunity to not stay quiet!
Many of you who read my blogs will know that I have severe and life-threatening allergies around food and other allergens. When I’m triggered I can have an anaphylactic shock which could, if I don’t act quickly or those around don’t act quickly, end my life. I live in constant fear of this, as does my fiancé, as do my parents and siblings. It’s always there, hovering in the background.
I’m one of a growing band of people who have this issue – allergies are rising all across the UK and the world, particularly in children and particularly around foods.Yet too often, people like me take our lives in our hands when we eat out, buy food on-the-go – because others do not take this condition seriously.
This hidden condition can seem to some, like a problem that is somewhere else, affects someone else and they don’t have to think about it. Awareness and understanding is still poor and I still, in my early 30s, find myself isolated, excluded and humiliated because of my condition.
People die from this every year, under the radar and very only a few of those stories come to national attention. Yet for every death, that’s a family devastated by that loss, a life time of ‘what ifs?’ or ‘should of’, ‘could of’, ‘would ofs’.
With that in mind – I’m not going to be quiet about:
- Standing up for issues that I have strong feelings about. Such as recently signing a petition directed at Unilever for changing their processes so that some of their previously nut-safe ice cream now have warnings on them saying ‘may contain almonds’. Given Unilever’s dominance in this market, a group of people already excluded from eating ice cream are now even more excluded. Indeed I believe I was personally affected by this recently after eating an ice lolly – https://www.change.org/p/ceo-unilever-uk-we-request-that-unilever-supply-nut-safe-ice-cream-and-reverse-recent-changes
- Upsetting people by asking them to refrain from eating nuts around me when I stand the risk of going in to anaphylactic shock. The worst examples of this for me have been travelling on a plane, where I’ve been told I’m impinging on the human rights of others, I’ve been told that ‘no’ they won’t warn people not to eat nuts on the flight and I’ve had to sit on the plane with my face covered by my own jumper (my allergens can be airborne) because they could not provide a face covering either. So the onus is on me to keep myself alive in an environment over which I have no control.
- Food not being labelled well enough, when there are an estimated two million allergen suffers in UK. This largely happens with fresh food which is packaged daily and contains very poor information around ingredients.
- I’ll not be silent about Natasha’s Law, due to come into effect a year from now, which is a new labelling legislation in memory of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse had a fatal allergic reaction after inadvertently eating sesame seeds on a sandwich which did not state on the packaging that it contained them. The legislation will mean all foods produced and packed for sale at the same premises must be labelled with a full list of ingredients.
- My allergens when I make new friends – they need to know what to do in an emergency, what not to eat around me and what to do if I go into anaphylactic shock when we are out together. Good friends totally accept this and act accordingly.
- Restaurants where their staff do not know what ingredients are included in dishes on the menu – and who sometimes don’t care, or put the onus on you as the customer eg. ‘you’ll have to take a chance’, ‘I don’t think there’s a problem’, ‘I don’t know and the chef’s busy’ or the plethora of excuses which means I’ll have to leave. Or even worse, being asked to leave because I’m just too difficult to cater for. Or being made to feel small when I ask additional questions about issues like cross contamination in the kitchen.
- My allergies when people are being flippant about the issues, and joking when lives are at stake. At school, I had walnuts put in my pocket as a ‘joke’. It wouldn’t be a joke if I collapsed and died – would the person who did that, knowing about my allergies, be charged with murder?
- Organisations who are failing to ensure food safety in the industry and, when necessary, calling out this, or any government, on these issues.
- Healthy eating especially around sugar. I believe sugar to be the addiction of our generation. In my world of free-from snacks and foods, often to create taste, products can be loaded with sugar. Yet since we’ve eaten so much processed sugar, we’ve seen a huge rise in diabetes, obesity and other conditions – there is a clear link. We need to educate ourselves and our taste buds to taste beyond sugar and it’s an ethos we have at Creative Nature. It’s not ‘no sugar’ it’s about lower sugar and healthier sugar. Here’s just one article around sugar if you want to read around the subject – https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/apr/07/the-sugar-conspiracy-robert-lustig-john-yudkin
- I’m not going to be quiet about our wonderful products that are created to support people like me, with food allergies giving them alternative food products they can enjoy which are convenient, quick and delicious….take look at https://www.creativenaturesuperfoods.co.uk