Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Toxic Waste

I just used an (almost) banned substance. I feel contaminated. I washed my hands carefully after using.

I made my daughter a peanut butter sandwich for lunch.

Now, don't get me wrong. I get the whole peanut allergy thing. I understand that for some people even contact with the oily residue from someone else's fingerprints can cause a severe reaction. That reading labels has to become a way of life, and that small children are especially at risk because it's so hard to explain it to them (and they often can't read yet).

And yet, I have a child who doesn't want anything else in her lunchbox, and who doesn't like 98% of the hot lunches at school. What do I do? Yes, I know, if there was a total ban on peanut butter we would find something else. She would adapt. She wouldn't starve.

But I feel guilty sending in this dangerous substance, and I take precautions based on working in chemical laboratories - I don't wear gloves, but I'm very conscious of cross-contamination and I wash my hands thoroughly before I handle the lunch bag (keep the outside clean). And I do resent (just a little) this feeling of guilt for putting someone else's child at risk. I sent William in with a granola bar for snack yesterday. There are peanut-sensitive children (child?) in his class, and the label read "May contain traces of peanuts". I really agonized over sending in that snack, and it was just for him, not the whole class!

I keep going back to when JC was in kindergarten. There was a child with a peanut allergy in his class, and in those days, you could still send in treats for birthdays. I called the mom, to find out what was safe. She was great, and made the comment that her children had to learn to be responsible for their own safety. "They have to live in the real world." What a fabulous attitude! And far safer for the kids in the long run - relying on the school to keep them safe is not much of a safety net.

I sent in peanut-safe Rice Krispie treats. Her daughter politely declined, even though her mom had told her they would be ok. She felt safer with her own snack.

Good for her.


Jill in MA said...

I have had all the same thoughts! Our pre-school is peanut-free, so it reduces my dilemma. However, they do not ban "may contain traces" products. Rather, they teach kids with allergies to learn to live with their allergies. (They're not allowed to eat home-made foods, or anything that comes from opened packaging, because of possible cross-contamination -- then they eat from their own snack stock.) They teach all the kids to never share foods. The school does not discourage home-made foods, because it's nice for the kids to have these foods sometimes. However, they do request that when you bring birthday cupcakes, or the like, that you contact the parents of the kids with allergies so they can bring a special safe snack for their own kid.
Also, I have friends with kids that have allergies who totally believe that they need to teach their own kids to eat responsibly and that it is not up to other moms to make foods safe for someone else's children.
BTW, have you ever tried Sunbutter? It's a peanut butter substitute made from sunflower seeds. Unlike soybutter, that you have to get used to, sunbutter actually tastes good in its own right (IMO) and tastes remarkably like peanut butter! See if R might like it. (I tried giving it to Owen, and he didn't like it, but I'm not certain why.)

Tracy said...

Hi - I'm a mom of a boy with peanut allergies who surfed in via google alerts and I just want to say thank you for being so careful. I know what a pain it is, and it really makes a difference to know that parents care. Please don't feel guilty about feeding your child a nutritrious and cheap source of protein.

I'd like to second the Sunbutter suggestion, and I would also try "IM Healthy" soy butter - to my tastebuds, it is just like peanut butter. I've seen both in the "organic" section of Shoppers, and I've seen the soybutter with the peanutbutter at Safeway. Trader Joe's has its own brand that is pretty good too.