« Kudos to Sara Lee | Main | Valentine's Day Tips »

January 22, 2008

Reaction to the New York Times story "Mom takes on Big Food over kids’ food allergies"

I’m sure many of you have already read the New York Times story from earlier this month about Robyn O’Brien, the mom who “Takes on Big Food over kids’ food allergies,” O’Brien was the kind of mom who rolled her eyes at kids with peanut allergies. Then, about two years ago, she had a personal run in with food allergies. Just like in most of our stories, she fed her child a food that would forever change their lives. She found out the hard way that her daughter was allergic to eggs.

Here are some excerpts from the New York Times article:

“Sitting at the table in her suburban kitchen, with her four young children tumbling in and out, O’Brien, 36, seems an unlikely candidate to be food’s Erin Brockovich (who, by the way, has taken O’Brien under her wing).

Her theory — that the food supply is being manipulated with additives, genetic modification, hormones and herbicides, causing increases in allergies, autism and other disorders in children — is not supported by leading researchers or the largest allergy advocacy groups.

O’Brien encourages people to do what she did: Throw out as much nonorganic processed food as you can afford to. Avoid anything genetically modified, artificially created or raised with hormones. Don’t eat food with ingredients you can’t pronounce.

Could it be that a toxic food environment has made children’s immune systems go haywire? It’s hard to find an expert in the field who supports O’Brien’s theory.

She asserts that the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), the nation’s leading food allergy advocacy group, is tainted by the money it receives from food manufacturers and peanut growers.

Although Kraft did help the organization (FAAN) start its Web site and other food manufacturing companies and trade groups sponsor some of its programs, that support has amounted to about $100,000. Munoz-Furlong said that she and doctors on her medical board do not believe that genetically modified foods cause food allergies because most children with allergies react to specific foods, such as eggs or milk. And, she said, communicating regularly with industry can help get the word to parents about potential allergens in products, and supporting research to identify causes of allergies helps consumers more than companies.

She also cautioned against taking the advice of people who have no medical training or run Web sites not certified to have reliable medical information. “She’s a dot-com,” Munoz-Furlong said of O’Brien. “It’s completely different than a dot-org. From the very beginning our intent was education.”

It’s great that there is yet another parent rallying for the safety of her child. I’m a bit cautious about O’Brien though, especially the part where she dings the Food Allergy Network. Come on, it is a solid foundation with many reputable allergists! And it’s one of the best voices we have in the fight for research, education and awareness nation-wide. I’m all for sticking together for our cause of food safety. But let’s keep our feet grounded, so we don’t get the reputation of being overly-protective nut jobs!

It's people like O’Brien that make it difficult for the majority of us other parents who simply want to create a safe environment for our children. This novice food allergy parent's use of scare tactics, criticism and personal recommendations not supported by research actually causes those of us who have made progress to take two steps back! Ugh!!

Posted by Ann Marie at January 22, 2008 2:03 PM


Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Remember me?