Food Allergy Population Affected Tremendously Due to Growth in Industry - The Good, Bad, & Ugly of it All

Everyone is noticing gluten free foods now. They may not know why, but they are. Some people have some kind of small inkling, even though it may be grossly misguided. Most networks have covered it or are going to. You see it on the menus, store windows, and in grocery stores mainstream. It's a Gluten/Allergen Free Revolution for those advocating for others and for those who had trouble finding it before. For others, it has become a mission to show the evils of gluten-free diets or the fad side of things.

Ironically, many incidents coincided in conjunction with National Celiac Disease Awareness Month. One, was the judgement made against Jamie Oliver's restaurant, which fined them $17,000 for serving a woman GF pasta that was actually wheat. Second, was the unfortunate Disney Channel production of a scene in the not-so-funny sitcom, Jessie, where a child is bullied for having food intolerance and added to his label of being "nerdy". Third, in March and April of this year, two children died from anaphylactic reactions which were highly publicised..

The Good

On the positive side, the gluten free/allergen free explosion of foods has been a positive on many levels for our communities. More options and more awareness are a good thing. Research has slowly progressed, making for better testing and a larger amount of awareness for the medical community. Doctors are increasingly adding it to options for testing. Social Media is requiring companies to be more responsible in their offerings.


The Bad 

Unfortunately, it is such a mixed bag of emotions and fraught with missteps along the way, that many of us know we are nowhere near anything but the tip of the iceberg in how to handle the issues facing our world. That may sound dramatic, but as the old saying goes, the grass is not any greener on the other side of the fence.

Europe does not handle food allergies any better than the U.S. according to international blogs and community comments on social media. The U.S. finally has an FDA labeling rule of 20 ppm as standard in European countries. This is actually "low gluten" and not gluten free completely.

Restaurants everywhere are cashing in on this explosion, but most are only offering it with disclaimers, if at all , to those who are celiac or truly allergic. They have a very valid fear of being sued. So, now, we have the chance of a communication issue of human error and cost effectiveness which is changing some restaurants' minds about offering it at all. And still lacking overall in the process is our schools, hospitals, and senior facilities. Kudos to colleges for making more progress, but as you recall, that took a lawsuit as well.

Celebrities have actually given a mixed message by doing PR - Some doing it for necessity, but most for weight loss or general healthiness, making it appear as a flaky fad type issue to the general population. And why not? Celebrities have been seemingly jumping on the band wagon en masse exodus and the general population who is health conscious has too. This has meant a market explosion of 36%, with only 6% of that being those who know they need it medically. With the new focus of media being how fattening a gluten-free diet is rather than focusing on the whole foods portion which is indeed healthier for all.

Physicians and Specialists are still dumbfounded by the sheer number of illnesses related to auto-immune breakdown. The general breakdown of the population in health has the medical profession encumbered with such vast possibilities linking to celiac disease and other auto-immune breakdowns, that they still frustratingly border on non-belief. The fact that testing is not always 100% accurate has led to that breakdown as well. It's like finding a needle in a haystack to most General Practitioners.

To add to the confusion, the overwhelming amount of physicians who have ridden along the gluten-free/allergen-free express have been, what most term; Holistic or Alternative. That faction has a whole Pandora's Box of other issues that comes along with it. Although some holistic practitioners are more than accurate and are truly in it for the passion of helping others, some are in it for their own benefit. With a bevy of products including magic coffee beans, non FDA approved supplements (none are actually approved), plant extracts, and fortified water, which may or may not have any benefit to those with celiac disease or any other issue. Such has fueled many people to take their health into their own hands in disbelief of their medical community.

& The Ugly 

Throughout the explosion of gluten free/allergen free food options, the media coverage has shown the need to sensationalize the issues by praying upon the rights of individuals to show both sides and completely not even reporting the facts at times, has been a blow by blow set back. It has become as posh to be Gluten-free/Allergen-free as it is to sneer at those who inconvenience them with supposed allergies and intolerance to food. Their beloved establishment of the belief in whole grains as their health source has caused another backlash.

Through it all, our children and loved ones are experiencing more bullying by peers and adults. The Disney Channel reference above, was supposed to be a "humorous" take on food intolerance, but at the expense of the character and all of those with food allergies who were watching. They rectified by making a statement that the episode would no longer be aired and an apology. This fueled a fire-storm of comments by some fans who were none too happy about the food allergy community rallying beside a Change.org petition which forced Disney Channel PR to release the statement.

The incident clearly showed the community how truly vile humans could be to one another in this new "dog eat dog" viewpoint some of the public holds about disabilities in general. You cannot see celiac disease on the outside, therefore the response for a critic is likely "they must be crazy" or a hypochondriac. 

Folks, we dealt with that already with the medical community. At some point it just gets old and hurtful with a strong proclivity to making us angrier than before for ignorance. Rest assured, nothing makes a parent angrier than an attack on their young. 

We can only suggest to everyone to keep calm and remain focused on the positive. Know that it is always darkest before the dawn.

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