I have finished one round of edits. Now it is time for the next one. The paper edits. I read through the mss, with pen in one hand and ruler in the other, making notes for changes as I go on. In this way,I hope to catch many of my mistakes and make for a more exciting read.
After I finish that, I have to go through the mss at random, using a different colour of pen, making sure that there is tension on each page.
After that, the changes are put on the computer and I will be done. Cue cheers.
Tonight I have a meeting. One of the things that will be discussed on the school's response to a child with food allergies. Since Friday, I have done a lot of thinking about it. On Friday, the head of the school sent home a notice requesting six discrete types of food not be sent to school -- Tracker bars, roast peanuts, Snickers, Mars bars and peanut butter. This is to protect a child who is severely allergic to peanuts. I saw red. If he is going to ban foodstuffs to protect this child, he needs to ban ALL nuts and nut products, plus any products made with peanut oil. Or indeed any product that might have come into contact with peanuts. This includes all cereal bars, bags of mixed nuts, trail mixes, biscuits with nuts, bakery goods, all nut and chocolate spreads, anything made with nuts and most chocolate bars. A large number of processed foods also contain peanuts. In order to know you have to read lists of ingredients. These lists change. Sometimes, mistakes happen. Recently oreo cookies were filled with a peanut flavouring and labeled as being original. A mistake on the production line but one which cost someone a life.
Banning a few items ultimately does not help that child. It simply means that a false sense of security develops.
Given the population of the school, such a ban is unworkable. There are 385 children plus staff. All of whom have to remember to be vigilant -- every day. Also there is a question of what happens if another child with a food allergy to milk or egg enters school. How do we treat them? It is simply impossible to ban everything.
By far the best way, is to insist on a cross-contamination prevention program. It was proved in a John Hopkins research paper that eating peanuts under normal cafeteria conditions does NOT put allergens into the air. But sometimes smears and traces of food are left on tables by messy eaters and a child can accidentally get foodstuffs on their hands. The best way to clean such things up is through ordinary housefold cleaners. Also all hands should be washed with bars of soap. Antibacterial rinses do not remove all traces.
At the moment, there is no system for washing tables, nor is there soap on a regular basis in the students' toilets. This is an accident waiting to happen, despite the head's pleas for people not bring in a few food stuffs.
Additionally ALL staff need to be trained in the use of epi-pen and the child needs to be encouraged to responsibility for his/her own allergy (ie eat only safe foods, eat in a clean place and not trade food).
All well and good but why was I so annoyed? Why did I feel so threatened? Simple answer -- I used peanut butter. Peanut butter for me is an important reminder that my children are also American children as well as British. When I first moved over here, peanut butter was difficult to obtain in Northumberland. It is not simply a snack, but a food I use extensively in preparing my children's school lunches. To be singled out when other food stuffs were not, got me angry. It got me even angrier when I discovered that other measures of basic hygiene were not being taken. It made me feel that my children were being singled out as they are some of the few that take peanut butter to school. Why peanut butter and not nutella? It bothered me that the head who is a friend dismissed my protest with the words -- it is not a cultural issue, it is only a snack and he is having to give up tracker bars. Actually peanuts and peanut butter is used extensively in African,West Indian, Asian cooking in addition to American cooking. In Middle Eastern cooking, pine nuts are often used. Pine nuts and sesame are related to peanuts and people with peanut allergies need to actively avoid these. How can he understand the significance to me when it has never come up in conversation before?
And how can he claim to be trying to save a child's life when he has not done the basic medical research and is not employing best practice?
Every few years or so, I encounter this. It is not that people mean to be unkind. It is simply that people failed appreciate that someone's culture and food might be different. Multi-cultural is not dismissing other people's concerns with a few glib or emotive words.
My heart goes out to the child and its parents, but the school has to make this child safe rather than paying lip service. The only way the child can be made safe is through proper hygiene and avoidance procedure by that child. That child has to take responsibility for his/her own allergy. IMHO. Ultimately their life depends on it.
I am interested in food allergies because I am allergic to ketchup. If I consume even a little bit, I break out in a rash. Luckily I am not contact allergic and so can allow my children to enjoy ketchup on their chips and hamburgers and other products containing ketchup. But I have to be careful. Also as a teenager, I worked in A GirlScout camp kitchen where we had several campers with allergies. This is back in the days when allergy meant an actaul reaction rather than an intolerance.Back then we had to be careful about how we prepared the food, and the camp nurse gave us specfic instructions. We prepared most foods from scratch because of the problems. And because processed was too expensive. Peanuts due to Jimmy Carter having been president were in plentiful supply from the US government. Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer and the peanut lobby was strong or so I was told.
FWIW I also think the British government's plan to use more chill-cooked foods in schools will ead to more food allergy incidents as no one will be able to vouch for exactly how food was prepared and IF there is any cross-contamination during preparation. It surprises that no one has objected on those grounds.