Usually when a father finds out that his son has food allergies, it doesn’t make headlines. Mr. Joel Stein, a popular Time magazine columnist, just found out that his son is nut allergic. Mr. Stein has a huge following, but normally his son’s diagnosis wouldn’t have come to my attention as a food allergy advocate and safety expert, but it did.
What brought this to my attention is that the diagnosis unleashed the wrath of some members of the food allergic community. I quickly learned that Mr. Stein wrote this article for the Los Angeles Times in 2009, which also had not caught my attention. Mr. Stein started his article by writing that: “ Your kid doesn’t have an allergy to nuts. Your kid has a parent who needs to feel special. Your kid also spends recess running and screaming, “No! Stop! Don’t rub my head with peanut butter!” I’ve read much worse, and it has been written to me personally.
My immediate response was to find Mr. Stein’s e-mail address online, send him a message to introduce myself and my sites, and offer to help orient him in the food allergy community online. I know of only one other food allergy advocate who did the same thing.
I follow a lot of food allergy writers through blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter. I am disappointed by the tone of the posts I’ve read about Mr. Stein and his son. To tell you the truth, after scanning one or two articles, I no longer read posts on this topic carefully. I just can’t read statements like – karma’s a bitch Mr. Stein, or too bad it’s only your son that had a serious reaction and not you too.
Mr. Stein chose to come forward and write this subsequent article on food allergies, and he deserves credit for doing so. I see Mr. Stein as an extremely well placed potential supporter and advocate for the food allergic population. There are almost 4.6 million peanut or tree nut allergic people in the United States, and there are only 1,213 comments on the Department of Transportation (DOT) docket regarding the extremely beneficial proposed ban of peanuts from airlines.
My petition in support of the proposed ban of peanuts from airlines met with enthusiastic support from my small community of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and customers, but I have only 1,732 signatures representing 0.38% of the nut allergic community. If we’re seeing only a tiny amount of penetration of the DOT site and my petition into the nut allergic community, we must realize that we can’t make a large impact on the non-allergic public working alone.
Imagine what an article by Mr. Stein would do in support of banning peanuts from airlines, or how Mr. Stein could help raise awareness about other issues as he learns and chronicles his experiences as the parent of a food allergic child. Rather than condemn Mr. Stein for his article, we should be ecstatic about a new well placed food allergy parent. Frankly, we need all the help and support we can get.
Nut allergies — a Yuppie invention
By Joel Stein 9 January 2009
By Joel Stein 9 August 2010
Banning Peanuts From Airlines
Petition Started by Elizabeth Goldenberg