How to stand-up for your rights when it comes to food allergies
As a parent to two children with allergies, I am their biggest advocate. Mainly because I want them to be safe and secondly I want them to feel included.
Over the years many wonderful people have gone out of their way to cater for my children’s food allergies, from birthday parties to restaurants. I have also had some really bad experiences that have left my children in tears, from exclusion in class activities to going hungry at camp.
I praise those who go the extra mile behind the scenes, as their efforts seemingly go unnoticed by most. But as a parent, their thought and consideration brings a tear to my eye. My kids don’t want to feel different, they just want to blend in and not miss out.
So what do you do when you have a really bad experience? When you’ve really had a gut full and want things to change?
I’ve been there. Multiple times and I’m certain I’ll be there again and again. I’ve thought to myself ‘What can I do? I’m just me, will anyone even care? Will anyone even listen?’
The answer is yes, people do care and people will listen.
What can I do when I have a bad experience?
1.Firstly, manage an allergic reaction/anaphylaxis and then report the reaction to help others**
Keep notes from conversations (phone or face-to-face), keep copies of emails, record the date/time/name of people you have spoken to.
3.Provide feedback in writing
Stick to the facts and remove the emotion (I know this is tricky to do)
Be specific but concise
Briefly explain what happened and how it didn’t meet your expectations
Describe your ideal outcome by providing solutions
Get someone to proofread
Address it to the manager/person who can make changes
Provide a copy of the letter/email to Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia.
4.Escalate when necessary
- If you don’t receive a satisfactory response, be proactive in escalating your letter/email to a more senior position
- Consider reporting the incident/experience to the appropriate authority to help to make positive change happen for others with food allergies. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has a list of contacts for each state: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/about/foodenforcementcontacts/pages/default.aspx. Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia can help guide you with this.
Every little bit of advocacy and every voice makes a difference. You may not realise it, but your feedback may have instigated improved training, better processes or policy change to help improve safety for those with food allergies. In fact, you may help save someone’s life.
Well done. I know I appreciate your voice. Continue to stand up for your rights.
**Contact Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia for assistance in reporting food allergy concerns/reactions at food service establishments where you have declared your allergy, including school/recreational camps and hospitals. Call 1300 728 000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
*Testimonial from Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia www.allergyfacts.org.au