The furore over the blackberry scene in the recent Peter Rabbit film (when blackberry allergic Mr McGregor was attacked by the rabbits with blackberries) certainly raised awareness of how food allergens can become a dangerous weapon in the hands of bullies.
Grabbing the opportunity the publicity has offered, Karen Woodford at the Safer Eating Company has launched a petition which she hopes will not only keep the issue alive but will help pull together some much needed data on the extent of allergy bullying.
If more data were available we would be in a much better position to require the police and the government to treat allergy bullying as the crime that it is: a peanut or a meringue forced into the mouth of someone who was anaphylactic to peanut or to egg could could kill them just surely as a knife thrust up through their ribs.
All we know right now is that there are around 11 million children in the UK, approximately 2% of whom have a nut allergy: 220,00 children. There is little in the way of UK figures but this US survey suggests that 40% of children/parents of allergy children have been bullied – which equates to 88,000 children in the UK who may have been allergy bullied. And there is one case currently going through the courts in the UK of 13 year-old who died, quite possibly died as a result of allergy bullying.
What we need are more statistics. We need the police to treat allergy bullying as a serious crime and to record incidents of it so that we can have some understand of the scale of the problem. With these figures we can then press the government to ensure that both the police and schools have the powers to treat allergy bullying as the crime that it genuinely is.
Meanwhile, we need to raise awareness amongst the non-allergic population of how serious allergy bullying can be.
As part of their campaign, Safer Eating is running a blog post by multi allergic Rory Mason illustrating all too clearly the dangers of ignorance – see Pelted with peanuts… with friends like these, hey?
But the first thing is to raise awareness– and who better to do that than the allergy community.
Karen’s petition is already up on Change.org. We all know how powerful these petitions can be so let’s get it some serious numbers.
Please, everyone, blog about it, Facebook it (Safer Eating), Instagram it (@safereatingco), Tweet about it (#AllergyBullying) , talk about it, write about it. Let’s not waste the awareness raised (thank you Sony pictures) by the now infamous Peter Rabbit film.