Peter Rabbit and The Tale of the Allergy Bullying

It’s not often that food allergies make headlines, but this week there have been articles in as unlikely sources as Vanity Fair.  In case, you have missed it, I’ll summarise.  A film, based on the Beatrix Potter books, has been released this week.  It has caused a furore because part of the plot involves Peter Rabbit deliberately pelting a boy with blackberries because Peter knows that the child is allergic to them.  Luckily, the boy uses his Epipen and survives.  I should say that I have not seen the film because I hate the frenetic pace of the TV series.  The film doesn’t exactly sound like comedy gold, but is the outcry justified?

Last year, thirteen year old, dairy allergic Karanbir Cheema died after allegedly having cheese forced on him at school.  This must have been devastating for his family, and it was only too easy for me to imagine this happening to the Allergy Brothers.  I hope that the perpetrator simply didn’t realise what they were doing, because, in our experience, that is pretty common.

It’s been quite sad to discover how little knowledge some people have about food allergies and how uninterested some people are in keeping the Allergy Brothers safe.  When Allergy Big was a toddler, playdates with his best friend became very difficult.  Despite knowing that he had food allergies, his friend’s Mum would give her little boy snacks, containing Allergy Big’s allergens,  when he was visiting our house.  Toddlers are not tidy eaters and he would toddle about leaving behind a trail of crumbs and dribble.  I would have to watch like a hawk, putting any contaminated toys out of Allergy Big’s reach.  Afterwards, I would have to thoroughly clean them, before the toys could be returned to Allergy Big.  It just became impossible to maintain this long-standing friendship, which was very sad, but Allergy Big’s safety was much more important.

Sometimes, people just show a lack of knowledge.  When the Allergy Brothers were about four and two years old, a family friend happily told us about her first pregnancy.  We were delighted for her, but quite disturbed when she followed it up be saying “what did you eat when you were pregnant, because I don’t want my kids to have food allergies like yours?”  I managed to resist saying my first answer “mainly kebabs and Stella!”  I didn’t really know how to reply though.  I am fairly certain that allergies of the magnitude and range of the Allergy Brothers’ aren’t caused by the fact I had a hankering for lime pickle during my pregnancy.

But does playground allergy bullying happen?  In our experience, yes.  Before I share our experience, I want to make it clear that I don’t believe that it was deliberate bullying or the young child involved understood what they were doing.  A child at the Allergy Brothers’ school started storing their lunch yoghurt in their cheeks and then, when they were released into the playground, they spat the yoghurt over the Allergy Brothers.  I am pretty sure that it started accidently with yoghurt spraying on one of the Allergy Brothers when the yoghurt pot lid was removed.  The young child involved possibly enjoyed their dramatic responses to this, and so repeated this by spitting yoghurt on them.  We are very grateful that the Allergy Brothers’ school dealt with this straight away, when we made them aware of it after the second day of it happening.  We have never had a repeat of this type of incident, but it made me really aware of just how vulnerable the Allergy Brothers are.

So does the Peter Rabbit film matter?  Yes and no.  Children’s cartoons involve all sorts of outlandish behaviour that we wouldn’t expect children to copy.  However, there is so much misinformation and disinterest in keeping people with allergies safe in society in general, that anything that adds to this has got to be a bad thing.

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Jom Organic Candy (Vegan, GF)

Finding treats for the Allergy Brothers is surprisingly difficult.  Lots of sweets are flavoured with citrus or strawberry (both Allergy Bros no-nos) or have lots of artificial ingredients in.  The Allergy Brothers seem to be so sensitive to their allergens that they react to products synthesised from their allergens, for example Maltitol is an artificial sweetener that is derived from corn or wheat.  This is a long-winded way of saying “hooray for Jom candy!”

Jom Candy is gluten free, vegan candy, and, as a nice ethical bonus, is palm oil free too.  We tried the wild raspberry flavour (Ingredients – sugar*, invert sugar syrup*, water, corn starch*, glucose syrup*, acidity regulator (citric acid), concentrate of raspberry* (0.29%), natural flavouring, glazing agent (sunflower oil*, carnauba wax*); *=certified organic ingredients).  Well, I say we tried it.  I ate one and then the Allergy Brothers snarfed the lot!  They really liked these sweets.  The sweets tasted of real raspberries, rather than fake flavourings.  The best bit was the texture.  Vegan sweets can be a bit floppy and soggy.  The Jom sweets were more solid with a satisfyingly chewy mouth feel.

In summary, I will be buying these for the Allergy Brothers’ teachers to keep at school.  It is always handy for their teachers to have something stashed away for them, when someone brings in a treat for the class that the boys can not eat.  I might keep a bag or two back for me though…

Freeze Dried Fruit Snacks

We have recently tried two types of freeze fried fruit snacks.  The first type was made by Googly Fruit.  We tried the apple and blueberry flavour, and the banana and raspberry flavour.  In both cases, you have freeze-dried pieces of one fruit (apple or banana) mixed with whole freeze-dried berries (raspberry or blueberry).  The Allergy Brothers were not impressed.  The freeze-dried blueberries were a little yucky looking.  Also, the fruit starts rehydrating in your mouth as you eat it, which is an unusual sensation.  I thought they were okay.  I was hoping to be able to keep a couple of packets in the cupboard for the days when I am disorganised and have run out of fresh fruit or salad to put in their packed lunches, but the freeze-dried fruit just came back home minus one or two tested pieces.

Sour_Cherry_bar

I also tested a Freya’s Sour Cherry crunchy fruit bar.  This product is more processed so it is in the form of a bar (it is broken into chunks in the photo; it’s like a chocolate bar), and has more ingredients (Sour cherries (30%), fruit extract (carob) and fruit juice concentrate (apple and grape), Trehalose, Maltodextrin, Gelling agent:Pectins).  I think this product looked nicer than the slighty weird looking whole freeze-dried berries.  It still rehydrated a bit in your mouth, but not as much as the Googly Fruits products.  You could actually crunch into it as you ate it.

The Allergy Brothers quite like eating fruit (well, at least the ones that they aren’t allergic to) so I don’t think these products are that helpful for us.  However, I do think they have their uses.  If you needed to pack an easy to store, non messy fruit snack (perhaps for a long journey), then these might be good for you.

I think the best use for these products are for children and adults who don’t like fruit normally.  People with sensory processing dysfunctions and who are on the autistic spectrum often find the wet textures of fruits unpleasant to eat.  If you have a child who is happy to eat dry, crunchy foods then these freeze-dried fruits might be a way of encouraging them to eat fruit.  They get the fibre and nutrients in the fruit without the distress of eating a food that has a disagreeable, to them, texture.

 

Fossil Biscuits

Updated recipe for improved clarity!

The dinosaurs went stomping all over our biscuits (and we learnt about how fossil tracks are formed). Idea stolen from Okido magazine.

Ingredients

  • 180g margarine
  • 120g sugar
  • 150g corn flour
  • 150g gram flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Also required – toy dinosaurs, toy insects, or similar

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5.
  2. Cream the margarine and sugar together.
  3. Stir in flours and vanilla essence, and work together to form a soft dough.
  4. Roll out on a floured surface and cut into shapes.
  5. Now make your fossils!  Either have your dinosaurs stomp all over the biscuits leaving footprints, or press your insects into the top of the biscuits to leave their mark.  Remember to remove the plastic toys before baking.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes.  You could read about how dinosaur footprint fossils are formed here or you could watch these videos (Footprints reveal dinosaur chase or More detailed video for older children and adults about how fossil tracks are used in research) while you wait.
  7. Leave to cool before removing from baking sheet.

Lucy’s Ginger Snaps

Gluten free, vegan, no peanuts, no tree nuts, no milk, no eggs, no GMO, Kosher.

Ingredients – Lucy’s blend ™ (Gluten-free oat flour, chickpea flour, potato starch flour, tapioca flour, sorghum flour, broad bean flour), cane sugar, soya drink (soya beans, filtered water), sustainable palm fruit oil, expeller pressed rapeseed oil, olive oil, vanilla extract, non-dairy lactic acid, raising agents (sodium bicarbonate, potassium bitartrite, monocalcium phosphate, sodium acid pyrophosphate), ginger (3%), oil of lemon, red pepper, gluten-free vinegar, black treacle, stabilisers (Xanthan gum, corn starch, carrageenan), salt, calcium carbonate, colour (Annatto extract), emulsifiers (Sunflower lecithin, sodium carboxymethylcellulose, methycellulose).

Sadly, these biscuits are not Allergy Brother friendly as they are allergic to three of the ingredients so I selflessly tried them with a cup of tea.  They were very good.  Everything you would want in a ginger snap biscuit.  They made a satisfying snap when I cracked them in half (little known fact – if you break a biscuit and then tap it on the plate then the calories fall out; this also applies to broken biscuits at the bottom of the tin.  This is definitely true.).  The biscuits had a good crunch when I bit them, and, most importantly, they tasted good.  The snaps had a good, strong, but not overpowering ginger flavour, and were just the right amount of sweet.  I hope the Lucy’s brand considers branching out into the UK, because I would definitely recommend them.