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To the Fast Food Employees Who May Not Pay Attention to Special Orders

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This is one aspect of what it’s like for my child (and me) to live with the possibility of anaphylaxis, a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction.

An anaphylactic peanut allergy is bad enough. It limits everything from bread to ice cream and more. There were only a handful of fast food and sit-down restaurants we could go to when my son just had the peanut allergy. He had almost died at the age of 3. His reaction actually came back in the ambulance less than 15 minutes from the use of his Epi-pen. So, it’s no joke.

But when he became anaphylactic to milk — his life flipped upside down and back again. There is no more yogurt, mac ‘n’ cheese or Hershey’s bars. No more chicken fingers and fries at a restaurant (they either have milk in them, or share a fryer with things like mozzarella sticks, which is a cross contamination no-no). No more pizza from the one place he could safely go to because it’s in the crust and the sauce.

No more Happy Meals from McDonald’s — the one, favorite place that had safe chicken nuggets and fries is no longer safe for those foods. They have milk in their fries…who-da thunk it, right? And their new chicken sandwiches are made with buttermilk and fried in the same oil. So, cross contamination again. No McDonald’s pancakes — one of life’s true pleasures. He was devastated.

After speaking to a manager about it, we found out he could still eat the Sausage McMuffin with Egg sandwich. We needed to tell them about a food allergy, and order with no butter and no cheese. Did you know they switched to “real” ingredients and now use real, milk-based butter? Simple enough.

This is what happens at our local, close-to-our-house, McDonald’s:

Photo of a Sausage Egg McMuffin next to a receipt
This shows the wrapper with a special order ticket taped to it stating no butter, no cheese. It has cheese on it.

We shouldn’t have to travel across town to get our order correct. We shouldn’t have to be the food allergy police and scour ever item that comes into my home — calling manufacturers again and again to see if practices may have changed and it’s not on a label. My kid shouldn’t have to end/stop/discontinue every fun aspect of his life due to his food allergy. The kid deserves a break and a treat now and then. But because people aren’t always paying attention or might be in a hurry, I constantly have a disappointed, heartbroken kid who has become ashamed of his life-threatening medical condition.

Imagine being the only one in class who can’t have the cake or ice cream or pizza for the party. Imagine everyone in your family gets a fast food treat, and yours is wrong time and time again and you don’t get that treat. Or your parents have to go back to the restaurant/store and fight for the correct meal for you.

As a little kid, it wears on you. As a parent, it infuriates you. It breaks your heart for your child.

Even if you’re a healthy eater, you probably know the joy of eating an ice cream cone with the team after the game, or enjoying funnel cakes at the county fair. My son can’t have them, even as special treats. They would put his life at risk.

So, I’m asking people to just stop and think for a minute. Have a little compassion. If you work in the food industry, realize someone’s life — or even just a little bit of happiness — may rely on your attention to their order.

For once, I’d love my child to come home happy — not disappointed their order was wrong again.

Just a little slice of happiness goes a long way.  And it may save a life.

Originally published: June 15, 2016
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