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Opinion: Tolerance of food allergies should be at the table

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Gluten free collard-wrapped tuna and hummus rolls. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Gluten free collard-wrapped tuna and hummus rolls. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

As a carnivorous, dairy-loving, carbohydrate-craving person, I can pretty much eat whatever I want.

My roommate Maggie is not the same way.

When we go out to get pizza, I get the thick crust, pepperoni-laden slice. She gets a salad. No cheese, please. And there can’t be croutons. Oil and vinegar dressing.

My salads are half croutons and ranch.

When we go to a sports bar, Maggie can’t get the fries because they’re fried in the same fryer as my breaded onion rings and fried chicken.

At Chipotle, employees need to change their tortilla tainted gloves. Same at Jimmy John’s, where she gets a lettuce wrap.

Maggie doesn’t do this because she’s on some weird fad diet that frowns upon my burrito and sub sandwich consumption.

She doesn’t do it because she wants to be difficult. She does it because she has to.

According to Food Allergy Research and Education, 9 million adults have food allergies. That makes up 4 percent of the population. Ninety-six percent of the population can walk into a restaurant and have no fear that there’s something there for them to eat.

Gluten has become a punch line of sorts. “What even is gluten?” and “People have been eating gluten for centuries, bro,” are ignorant cheap shots even I have made.

But for those with the celiac disease, it’s not a trend. It’s not an attempt to shed love handles. Avoiding gluten is necessary to avoid real, prolonged pain.

Over the summer, General Mills announced that its Cheerios would be going gluten free. It would be a supposedly smooth process, as only a small amount of wheat, rye and barley would need to be sorted out. It was an exciting day. There was a giant-size box of Honey Nut in my apartment in celebration.

Earlier this month, boxes were recalled for some sneaky gluten bits sliding into the process. This was like Chipotle employees not changing their gloves or frying oil having previously hosted fried chicken. A woman on a paleo diet who does yoga would have definitely been okay. Maggie might have been okay, but it’s not worth the risk.

The gluten-infested Cheerios are mine now. They come with a little guilt. But it’s better to not focus on the guilt and focus on the understanding. We can make room at the table for all of us.

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