5.29.2008

A deeper issue at hand

While I did state clearly in my title below that my anger was over something stupid there was a deeper issue there. I have every right to expect my waiter/waitress to know their food. As a consumer I have that right.

I have a son who is allergic to peanuts. Severely enough that I have to carry a Jr. Epi with me at all times along with loads of Benydril. My son can die from contact with peanuts. Does it sound like I'm making a big deal out of that, well I'm not. You can tell me it's a big deal when it is your child who is puffing up and swelling and itching and hysterical because they touched one small Reeses pieces to their mouth. Here are two examples of wait staff being incompetent, and a third of people just being ignorant.

1. A few months ago we went to sushi. My son came. We ordered all you can eat sushi, which comes with a salad, rice and tempura vegetables. My son wanted the rice and salad. I told the waitress at least 6 times that he was allergic to peanuts and we couldn't have the salad if it had peanuts. I was clear. She brought out two salads with peanuts on top of them. No where in the menu did it list peanut, it simply said an Asian ginger salad. I was very angry but nicely asked her to remove them. She said she would bring something else. She arrived with a second salad and I calmly asked her if it had any contact with nuts. She said no. I asked her please to double check with the chef. She came back and told me that actually, the dressing was made with peanut oil. Both times she set the plate directly in front of my son with in his reach. He is only 2 he does not yet recognize or understand what peanuts are. This waitress should have known what was in her salads.

2. This past friday I took my son to Ben and Jerrys. I was talking to two servers. I told them I needed their kiddie cone rather then one of their hand dipped cones because some of the dipped ones had peanuts and there could be contamination. He assured me, no no, it is safe. At that exact moment the owner of the store happened to walk out and hear this. He reprimanded both employees for telling me that, showed him that they have a completely separate cone because yes there is in fact contamination. He then advised them that they needed to get a separate scoop out of the back to scoop my sons ice cream because their other scoops are simply dunked in a bowl of water that could also be contaminated. Had he not done that, those servers would have gone on lying to customers. Even one small fragment of a peanut could have harmed my son, and the way the cones are dipped, all the toppings are mixed in the process.

3. A few weeks ago my son and I were visiting a local shop. We stopped in quickly to drop something off to a friend. I left the diaper bag in the car since I would only be a minute. The owner was present. The shop had one of those small candy machines next to the waiting area. My son asked me if he could have some. I replied, no because I know that some times those machines hold peanuts. I know this from last time my son simply touched one of those machines and broke out because one of the dispensers held salted peanuts. The store owner upon hearing me say no, replied, "oh it's okay there is only M&Ms, and Runts in there." I didn't want to chance it. Seconds later my son came to me swelling up, crying and turning red in the face. He had a small M&M shaped candy in his hand. Instantly I knew it was a Reeses piecees and not an M&M. I sprinted to my car grabbed Benadryl and came back to administer it. In the 40 seconds it took to do that Brandons bottom lip was swelling and rock hard and his top lip was beginning to swell. His eyes were swelling because he touched them with the hand that held the candy. It seems after I told Brandon no, he spied a candy on the floor, and being 2 he grabbed it and ate it. I then showed the store owner so he could be aware for the future. He argued with me that it was still an M&M saying he had been eating them all day, and it was him who had dropped the candy on the ground earlier in the day, but was to tired to pick it up. And in fact until he went and got more out of the dispenser and broke them open to see peanut butter in them, he was still holding his ground. That store owner should have known what kind of candy he was selling.

A forth example. My son can not get a flu shot. He was born with an allergy to eggs. There was an 80% chance he would grow out of it, and he is slowly. However when he was 1 year old I took him to his doctor to get his shot. My doctor luckily said, wait, no, he is allergic to eggs. All flu shots are currently bound together with egg white. He can not get a shot until he is over five and has had 3 years of negative results on an egg allergy test. Upon asking other friends I discovered, that most doctors, or nurses did not inquire about allergies before administering flu shots to their kids. As a doctor or nurse, you should know what is in the shot you are administering my child, and you should know to ask.

And while I'm ranting I have a final example. A year ago I went to dinner with one of my close friends who is allergic to most nuts. She asked the waitress if there were nuts in her brownie. The waitress said no. The brownie came my friend took a bite and was met with nuts. My friend inquired on the kind. The waitress replied, they were simply walnuts. My friends throat began to swell, we had to leave our dinner and go buy medicine for her. Later we were told the nuts were packaged in peanut oil. In fact, upon shopping for nuts at the store I've discovered the only brand of nuts with out peanut oil is Blue Diamond Almonds. Nearly every other brand of nut I have picked up, cashews, almonds, macadamia, walnuts, and so on are packaged in peanut oil. That waitress should have known the brownie had nuts, and she should have known they were covered in peanut oil, it says it clearly on their packaging THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS: MILK, WHEAT, PEANUT, TREE NUTS, AND EGG.

I think I have a right in all of these situations to expect my waiter, waitress, or store owner to know their product. It isn't asking to much. However, if they don't know it, rather then answering what they THINK, they should be respectful enough to say, "you know what, lets not chance it, let me ask for sure." Every waitress who has ever replied that way has gotten a lot bigger tip for worrying about my kids safety.

And yes, my rice having chicken stock in it, isn't deadly but its the principal. That waitress has no idea if I have an allergy to meat, or something contained in stock. I am allergic to anything with a pit. Olives, avocados, peaches and so on. If I tell them I can't have olives in something I shouldn't have to say, it could kill me, they should just find out and respect it.

An anonymous person commented on my blog that only 2% of Americans are vegetarians so restaurants shouldn't have to conform. However only 3% of America has peanut allergies, does that mean restaurants shouldn't worry about that either? How about the growing number of children born with other allergies, eggs, milk, soy, and shellfish. Are you going to tell every parent of every child, there are bigger things to worry about then their child's health? I have been a waitress. Before I even had kids and knew about allergies. I always treated customers requests with respect. I asked the chefs, I read labels, and I answered their questions correctly. I don't know about you, but I would hate to be the waitress who didn't find out and served a peanut oil salad to a child with a peanut allergy.

I also feel that until you have kids, and you are met with this situation, you probably don't respect it. You probably would say, then don't take your kids to eat. And that is fine for you to feel that way. However, you should respect my right as a parent to expect a healthy dining experience for my child. Yes anonymous, I made a big deal over my chicken stock, but it was due to an underlying situation with previous frustrations with wait staff. I hope that now you can read and understand, why some people do have to ask questions when they order food. I realize you probably brush me off as a pesky customer asking questions or being picky. You probably think that about a lot of people. However a lot of us have real concerns, real reasons. Will chicken stock make me die? No. Will chicken stock upset my stomach and make me feel sick? Yes. Will a product with soy in it hurt my friend Christy? No. But will it hurt the baby she is nursing? Yes.

Before you take the time to judge all of us picky food requesters maybe you should consider we have a valid reason for our concerns.

13 comments:

Jayla'sMommy said...

I absolutely, totally agree. I am allergic to a lot of foods too (including peanuts but also to cheddar cheese and strawberries but the peanut allergy is the "bad kind" that would send me to the ER...) and I hate the judgemental looks I get whenever we go out to eat and I ask if my food was in any contact with peanuts or if they use peanut oil...
I hope that Jayla won't get my allergies because it must be so hard having a kid that's allergic to certain foods...

Patty said...

See now this is VERY SCARY, and true unless you have a child with an allergy so strong do you not realize these things.

Brandon is lucky that you are so careful when ordering foods for him.

Steph said...

Excellent point. I am glad you posted about this. People are so one track minded and selfish they never try to look at something from others points of view.

Not So Perfect said...

Oh gosh that would be hard, having to worry about allergies. I read labels on food packages ALOT and it seems like everything says "this product is packaged on equipment that also packages products containing peanuts, soy products etc etc." That would be a hard one to try to avoid, espeically with a 2 year old.

Mrs. F said...

Ugh, peanut allergies are so scary. When I was waitressing in a restaurant I was always VERY careful when someone asked me about specifics that I would check the ingredient labels for them.

Anonymous was just being a jerk. Hence the anonymous part.

Lover of Life said...

Food allergies are very scary. My younger daughter is allergic to hazelnuts. Guess what is the most popular nut in Oregon?

Jeninacide said...

Dude- Your son's peanut allergy scares the SHIZ out of me! My sister could die if she ate a Hazelnut.. not as common as a peanut but still I don't know why waitstaff can't just go ask or READ LABELS. Gob.

Mandy said...

I believe you are completely justified! I use to love ceaser salad until I realized that most brands of dressing are made with chopped anchovy. At Bakers Square the waitress argued with me and told me the question was stupid that anchovy is NOT in the dressing, she then asked the cook who also thought it was a stupid question until the head cook yelled at both of them because their dressing too has anchovy in it!

Not as bad as a peanut allergy but still annoying.

BAH at ignorant lazy waitstaff.

safris said...

Hi!

I just happened upon your blog (love it!). My 3.5yo daughter is allergic to peanuts, dairy, egg. Unless you have a child with allergies (and not the kind that gives you an upset stomach, we're taking life and death here!) it's hard for people to understand. My sister in law finally got it when her 5 year old gave my daughter a cheese dorito and then preceded to go into shock. Luckily, her Zyrtec was enough and we didn't have to use the epi pen.... But now my sister in law makes her kids eat at the table when my daughter is around. When dining out, we actually bring my daughter's dinner with us, less stress. We just have to endure the looks that we're cheap and not buying our daughter a meal....

Rachel said...

Well not only does max have allergies but we do too. But it is different when they are young and there immune systems are still so young and fragile. I would be so damn upset as well. I am glad you are you and you are so on top of it because you never know what is in food unless you cook it at home. Damn bitches!

Lainey-Paney said...

severe food allergies are a huuuuge deal. way to go mom for being on top of it.

also, did you know that when you fly, you can notify the airline ahead of time so that they can make special provisions?

once upon a time, I was on a flight and asked for peanuts b/c all I was offered was pretzels. the flight attendant informed me that one of the other passengers had a severe food allergy to peanuts, so they removed the peanuts from the aircraft prior to departure. I was pretty impressed.... (it was a Delta flight....years ago, though.)

angie said...

This is a very scary situation because many times you have people that don't know what they are telling you and they want to look like competent employees and so they lie to make themselves look better. They won't look too good if something were to happen to Brandon and then you come back and sue!! And let's talk about the IDIOT that argued about the Reeses!! Did he know what he was eating that day good lord...there's a big difference between chocolate and peanut butter!

I have a little girl in my room that is allergic to eggs. I pass out a survey at the beginning of the year and ask parents if their kids have allergies. A lot of times they are on the nurse forms that they turn in but we don't see those so I need to know for myself! Back to my kiddo...we had a pancake breakfast for a book we had read. I knew that I would be mixing eggs into the batter so I called her mom and told her and asked if there was something she would like me to get for her so that she could still feel part of the breakfast. Mom said she could have the pancakes. I guess that if the eggs are mixed in with something she can have them, but she can't eat just eggs like scrambled or fried or that kind. Is that weird or is that kind of what the doctor meant when he said maybe Brandon would grow out of it? Can Brandon have any kind of eggs or nothing at all? Just wondering because I know I was worried about the little girl in my class...I checked all the labels the parents brought in on any treats for the class before giving her anything!

Rachael said...

Man, that has got to be so hard for you. I feel so bad for how these places don't even know what they're serving. It's one thing if you get someone's order wrong. It's another to not listen when someone says that NUTS COULD KILL THEM and then not be careful about it. It's kind of disgusting for them to do that actually. My husband has Celiac Disease and can't eat wheat gluten, malt, etc. and it's hard for us to go out to eat. Trying to explain what he can't eat, asking people to check with the cook about ingredients. And for us, it's not even a life and death type situation, it's more he'll just be sick or get a migraine. So I can imagine how difficult it would be for you and your son. I don't think you're overreacting in any of those situations.

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