I vacillate between keeping this blog focused only on fiber related matters and writing personal entries. I have some pending entries as old as the blog. Maybe one day I will release the hounds, but today I had to post about this:
Some of you may know I have two sons, ages 7 & 5, and they have allergies. They are life threatening such that we have to carry epipens with us. These are the kind of allergies that make their lips balloon up and their breathing stop. They are severely allergic to dairy and all tree nuts.
This summer on a late afternoon I had both of the boys with me as well as one their friends over for a play-date. My husband was out of town for work so I decided to take the kids to a neighborhood restaurant. Their grown up food is pretty good too so it was an easy choice. I just wanted the kids to eat well and have a good time with their friend. We have been there before – quite a few times – but I did my usual explanation about the kids’ allergies and how their food had to be dairy and nut free, and how these were life-threatening allergies (really, I added, they are serious allergies).
Spaghetti and meatballs came and I noticed that kids’ pasta had cheese on it (I specifically requested that our waitress remind the chef to hold the cheese given the kids’ allergies). As a result their pasta had to go back. I hated to do this but the alternative was not acceptable. Dinners came back, everybody ate and everyone was OK.
At this restaurant kids meals come with soda/juice and desert. Since the restaurant usually does not have anything that is dairy-free my kids usually have fruit for desert. This is why I asked our nice waitress for some fruit but she told me they now had fruit-ice, something like sherbet. Kids were excited and I was happy. I asked her to please ask the chef and read the label to make sure there was no dairy or nuts in the fruit-ice/sherbet. She came back and told me that they had checked and all was OK, the desert was definitely dairy and nut free.
So like the idiot that I am I trusted our waitress (and the chef), and ordered fruit-ice for everyone. Desert came and my kids tasted their sherbert and then half a spoon more and the coughing started. It was as though their throats were itchy, they kept coughing and making this throat cleaning like sound. They were also nauseous. I called our waitress and asked her if she had really read the label and she said she was sure it was all OK. I paid and we left right away. I wanted to get the kids home or to the ER to make sure they were OK.
In the car things got worse quickly. I called the restaurant while driving and doing my best to calm down my 7 year old; he kept coughing, crying and asking me “are we going to die mama, are we?” At this point I am trying to keep calm but feel like my body is on fire with fear and panic. I am frightened for my kids and I am angry, both with myself for being such a fool and with the staff at the restaurant for their carelessness. In the midst of this mayhem I explain the guy on the phone who I am and ask him to get the sherbet container and read the ingredients to me. After a few beats he starts reading and the 2nd (or may be 3rd) ingredient on the container is milk fat! Milk fat!!! Milk fat = dairy. So easy, so simple, so unbelievable. I was in shock, I hung up so that I could focus on driving and get some help.
As I said it has been a while and I can write about this in a somewhat calm manner. Kids are OK and I will spare you the details about the aftermath. I did call the restaurant and talked to the manager/owner a few days later. I did not raise my voice, I was not rude, I did not request a refund. I asked them, pleaded with them, to educate their staff and to take the necessary precautions so that what happened to my kids does not happen to others. The gentleman on the phone was mostly quiet. He did not have much to contribute other than a brief apology and a comment about how they had talked to their staff so that this would not happen again. He asked how the kids were and I could hear the relief in his voice when I told him that they were OK (problem avoided, they are not dead, yey). I was not reassured.
We will not be going there again as I don’t believe that the restaurant did much to train their staff on how to properly read food labels and/or how to work with people with allergies (this is what I believe and I admit I am biased). Maybe I expect too much and we should not take the kids out for food. I know that I will be asking a lot of questions the next time we take them somewhere and I will ask for ‘the container’ so that I can read the ingredients list myself. I will be “that crazy mom” and I welcome the title.
Thank you for listening.