Season 1: Episode 2
The Peanut Problem
A Netflix Original Documentary Series
“Something in our world is changing. Our bodies are rejecting the foods we eat and even the experts don’t really know why.”
For 47 minutes I sat on the edge of my couch, not from excitement but as an apprehensive Allergy Mom. With each changing scene in the recently released Netflix Original Documentary Series, “Rotten”, the imagery, stories and scientific evidence had my emotions teetering between annoyed and sad, happy and hopeful. In Season 1: Episode 2, “The Peanut Problem”, we are whisked away to some beautiful Georgian peanut fields, skittered across to the UK, to hear horrifying accounts of a restaurant owner who blatantly ignored his duty of care for monetary gain which resulted in the loss of an allergy person’s life.
“The Peanut Problem” had me feeling completely annoyed when the episode has us trailing alongside an American family from Georgia, strolling through their lush legume (peanut) fields. The peanut allergy epidemic could potentially affect the Cox family (featured in the documentary) since their farm alone produces more than 1 million pounds of peanuts each year. To say they are invested in the positive spin of peanuts is an understatement and their involvement in the documentary left me with a sour taste.
What left me feeling hopeful as an allergy mom were the two terrific food allergy advocates featured in the documentary. The first, Mr. Ming Tsai claims that he has had, “at least 20 mothers crying in [his] restaurant.” This I have no doubt to be true. My daughter has never eaten in a restaurant. No silly antlers on the head, or happy birthday song while a whole restaurant claps along and sings happy birthday to our child. We of course have our own celebrations and our amazing friends and family make them so special but it would be spectacular to have a restaurant owner close by, like Mr. Tsai, who guarantees his meals are served safe from The Top 8 Food Allergens by the use of a simple spreadsheet system.
The second allergy advocate is researcher and allergy mom, Dr. Ruchi Gupta, M.D, M.P.H from the Lurie Children’s Hospital and Northwestern University in Chicago. She takes the time to explain the severity of an anaphylactic reaction, how stressful life can be as an allergy parent, and of course her hopes for the future as she believes treatments are coming to the public in the next 5 to 10 years. If you are looking for a quick visual explanation of what happens to the body during an anaphylactic reaction, at around the 10-minute mark we hear from a young woman named Ruby and her experience with a small amount of peanut in an Indian dish she was served. At this point in the episode there is some scientific IEG discussion that may be worth watching if you cannot commit to the full episode. It may be helpful to show family members, daycare workers, teachers, and friends who do not quite grasp the severity of a reaction, should there ever be one.
It is so chilling to think that even a small exposure to a food allergen can quickly explode into a severe allergic situation as is clearly explained in the documentary:
An anaphylactic reaction can include: rapid closing of the throat, vomiting, suppression of heart rate, bronchospasm (difficulty breathing), wheezing, tightening of the chest, hives, and even the unthinkable. So why do we carry 2 Epipens everywhere we go? The only way to treat an anaphylactic reaction is by reversing that reaction by using epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) administered through an auto injector. It is very powerful and every administration requires hospitalization.
Food allergies are on the rise globally and it is important that people understand how to help out those local in your own community. I can tell you first hand that it can be extremely isolating when you have a child who is allergic to certain foods. Many social gatherings quickly become ticking time-bombs if people do not take the necessary precautions and we often avoid these situations instead of risking an unsafe environment.
A simple way to keep people who have food allergies safe it to exclude the food and not the child. It made me so sad in the documentary when they were talking about students with allergies having to sit at separate tables so they could be kept safe from other lunches. In a world where we are striving for inclusion, this does not seem like a community rallying together to help the child(ren) feel loved or included.
Let me tell you, as an allergy mom, nothing warms my heart more than my friends texting or calling me to double check that the snacks they are bringing to our playdate are safe for Sosi. Many amazing companies are starting to create peanut free products that are free from many, if not all, of the Top 8 Allergens, so you can easily access these snacks for your own child, in order to keep others safe. My child is too young to thank you or understand the effort you are making but from the bottom of this allergy mom’s heart, there is no greater act of kindness than empathy and compassion for others.
The final scene of Netflix’s, “The Peanut Problem” takes us back to the beautiful, green peanut fields where the documentary began. My feelings of annoyance, sadness, and happiness, were surprising pushed aside by feeling thankful. It is amazing that organizations such as The National Peanut Board are donating large sums of money toward Food Allergy Research, and that large corporations such as Netflix are taking the time to spread awareness about the real, often scary world of living with food allergies. I am also very thankful for you! Whether you are an allergy parent, grandparent, teacher, friend, or colleague, you taking the time to read this review for either educational or emotional support and that means the world to allergy families.
If you are looking for more resources, please take a look at the links below. We also share our Food Allergy Family journey on various social media outlets and would love any positive friends to join us.