Allergy Awareness in a Chocolate Store

By Heather Legg

Since my daughter was diagnosed with a food allergy nearly 6 years ago, we’ve witnessed all kinds of awareness levels in stores and restaurants. We’ve been surprised with teenagers in ice cream shops going above and beyond, and wondered how people can work in restaurants and be so ill informed. We’ve seen signs that say if you have food allergies, you probably should go elsewhere.

The other day, we were in a high end chocolate shop in the mall. This is a larger chain and have in the past been very helpful with their chocolates, recommending pieces and making sure we know everything is manufactured with nuts, that sort of thing. They’ve even packaged our chocolates separately without asking. Bottom line, we feel fairly comfortable there and though those with more severe allergies may choose not to go there, my daughter loves it and has never had an issue.

However, at this visit, we were a little surprised at the lack of awareness we witnessed with allergies. The man helping us seemed to have no clue of allergies or the precautions people take. We had earned a box of two free chocolates in the rewards program, and he handed it to us. We asked what kind of chocolate was in it, and he told us, one being a praline. I know praline is usually made of nuts, but when asked him for clarification, he wasn’t sure so had to ask someone else (he works in a chocolate shop!!!). I was right, it did. I told him we needed to know as my daughter has allergies, and instead of asking to swap it out or even skip it, he laughed and said that it would be a nice treat for me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I may very well eat it, but I may not. I’m kind of in the middle of where I stand on eating nuts myself. We went so long on a total family ban that I don’t even like them much myself anymore. But I think what bothered me was his lack of awareness. Sympathy was lacking, too, but I don’t really care about that, it was the awareness. I think it’s part of his job to not only know the ingredients of his product, but to know the effect they have on people. Many people won’t eat what their children are allergic to for fear of cross contamination, and I support that a hundred percent.

I also don’t expect anyone to monitor what we eat or purchase, I guess I just would have liked to have seen a bit more conscientiousness and awareness. I really think they can do better than that.

1 Comment »

Sarah:

I’ve seen a lot of similar behavior from people working in shops/stores where they sell food. Even organic, health food stores are not immune, as a few months ago I was in my local one and they were giving out free samples of some dairy-free spread. The woman almost insisted that I try it. I pointed out it had “natural flavors” on the label, which I have reacted to badly in the past. She insisted that her product did not contain soy (how she would know this I did not know as she was not the manufacturer) and that I should try it. The spread was on some type of cracker and I have never found a cracker free of soy – she didn’t even think what was in the crackers. That alone I found very disturbing. It points out she knew nothing of allergies or she would have checked the cracker ingredients as well.

I would think a person working in a store, especially a health food store that sells only organic foods, should be more … polite and knowledgeable? They should not try to force a free sample on a person while claiming it is free or this or that. That could be very dangerous, as a person could eat it and then have a reaction, maybe even a trip to the ER. Needless to say, if I want a spread, I buy REAL butter!

I think he should have given you some other chocolate. Why not just plain chocolate? If nothing else, I suppose you could give it as a gift…but I think he should have asked first if you were allergic to nuts before giving it to you.

Many people, however, have zero experience with allergies. Or they get the wrong idea of what an allergy is. My neighbor had believed she was allergic to chocolate because it gave her a belly ache, so hearing how soy can make me swell, gives tingles or itching of the skin, affect the breathing, etc … well, it confuses her as that is not what her “allergy” does to her. She just has a problem digesting sugar, which is not an allergy at all.

And sadly, a lot of people still don’t believe that just eating one peanut or one egg or one whatever can kill a person. My friend’s sister can have a bad reaction just from SMELLING fish… she does not have to even touch it.

Truthfully, I still remember the Dear Abbey I read as a kid or teen where a friend’s mom forced a boy to eat a peanut and he died. She wrote in because she (at the time) didn’t believe it was possible and found out to her horror it was true. That was the first time I learned about food allergies and never forgot it.

December 3rd, 2011 | 6:51 pm
Leave a Reply

Comment