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Comedian John Crist Angers Food Allergy Community With Offensive Instagram Posts

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Comedian John Crist has sparked outrage in the food allergy community after two of his Instagram posts seemed to poke fun at food allergies.

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How they gonna come at Goldfish like this bruh

A post shared by John Crist (@johnbcrist) on

In Crist’s most recent photo, he closed his eyes in disbelief by a sign at a church door that reads: “Allergy Alert: We will be serving Goldfish crackers today. Please let the teacher know if your child cannot have them.” His caption said, “How they gonna come at Goldfish like this bruh.”

Lianne Mandelbaum, who runs the site No Nut Traveler and is a respected food allergy advocate, told The Mighty that while those Goldfish crackers may look innocuous to people who are not familiar with food allergies, the crackers’ dairy content could mean ingested crumbs from one toddler’s mess could lead to serious consequences for another child. Mandelbaum also explained food allergies can be difficult for other children to understand because allergies are not visible until symptoms show up. Yet at that point, the consequences can be fatal.

A food allergy is an immune system reaction that occurs soon after eating certain foods. Even the smallest food particle can trigger an allergic reaction, which could include digestive problems, hives or swollen airways. In severe cases, a food allergy can cause life-threatening symptoms or reactions called anaphylaxis. There is no cure for food allergies.

Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) says that researchers estimate up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.9 million children under age 18. That’s one in 13 children, or roughly two in every classroom. About 30 percent of children with food allergies are allergic to more than one food.

Parents of those who live with dairy allergies are often confronted with the misconception that a dairy allergy is just a bad tummy ache or flatulence (lactose intolerance). Mandelbaum stressed that any food allergy is potentially fatal and can lead to death. “There is nothing funny about dying from a food,” she said. “Let us remember that children, especially when they are young, often cannot protect themselves.”

This isn’t the first time Crist has angered the food allergy community. Crist’s first post was made when he was on a flight. He imposed three emojis showing the progression of his eye roll over a photo of him sitting in a plane seat. He wrote: “Actual footage of my eyes when I heard about the allergies, support animals and special requests on this plane.”

Mandelbaum, who is especially known for her advocacy regarding air travel, has heard these jokes all too often.

Food allergies are a unique condition because in order to keep our children safe, we actually need some cooperation from others. Yet as food allergic parents, we are often subject to mocking and disbelief from those around us. This takes place in our schools, on airlines and on social media.

She also expressed it is terrifying to think that an ordinary food can take your child’s life away. “I personally have seen the light start to fade in my son’s eyes as he struggled to breathe upon exposure to his poison: peanuts,” Mandelbaum said.

Comments from the food allergy community on Crist’s Instagram posts reflect disappointment with the comedian. “Maybe you’ll understand when you’re a parent. You are funny, your allergy jokes are not,” one commenter posted. Another one said, “I get that comedians make fun of everything but it’s like people have said above, the joking turns to teasing turns to bullying and then people don’t take us seriously at all. It spreads and it’s harder to get people to understand when everything is constantly turned into a joke.”

Other parents described the agony of rushing their children to the hospital. “When you’ve had to hold your 2-year-old’s lifeless body running into an emergency room because of food allergies… when you watch them give nine injections of epinephrine just to keep him alive. When you watch him in PICU for three days wondering if he will really make it… when you fill up with fear every time people pull out food, or watch him pull away from hugs because he’s scared of what you may have touched… then the jokes are no longer funny.”

Mandelbaum shared a similar sentiment on a post she wrote for The Mighty, “Please Understand Why Parents of Kids With Severe Food Allergies Act the Way We Do“:

Each day when I send my son out the door, it is with the knowledge that an ordinary food has the potential to end his life. This ordinary food can, in seconds, cover his body in hives, swell his lips to double their size and cause him to vomit and struggle to breathe. Failure to treat food-induced anaphylaxis quickly (i.e. within minutes) with epinephrine increases the risk of death.

So, the next time you roll your eyes at my hysteria over snack food or you just want to eat your nuts on an airplane, know I fight this battle not against you and your rights but as an advocate for my child and others like him because there are no “do-overs” with deadly food allergies.

The Mighty has reached out to John Crist for comment and has yet to hear back.

Originally published: October 2, 2018
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