By Conor MacAdam, Senior Category Manager in Group Procurement
I’ve had a serious allergy to nuts and sesame seeds since the age of four. It keeps me on my toes because I’m always at risk of anaphylaxis if exposed to these allergens. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction and can cause a series of symptoms, including a rash, low pulse, and shock.
I’ve had quite a few reactions in the past, so I’m proud that Co-op are supporting Natasha’s Allergen Research Foundation with their mission to fund research into finding a cure for food allergy and increase allergy awareness.
In 2016, 15 year old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse lost her life after having an allergic reaction to an undeclared ingredient in a baguette from a fast-food outlet. Since then, her parents have set up the foundation to raise money to find a cure for allergic reactions. We’re giving the foundation 10% of the proceeds from each Co-op Free From product sold during Allergy Awareness Week.
You’ll likely know that allergens are declared in bold within the ingredient declaration on our packaging, but did you know the law around labelling allergens is changing for food prepared in store? From 1 October, Natasha’s Law will mean we’ll print full ingredient information on all our products pre-packed for direct sale (excludes products sold loose).
We’ve also launched a new training module for colleagues on MyLearning. It’s been created to help you get a better understanding on allergies.
The scariest experience of my life
To put all this into real terms, I’d like to share with you an incident I had before the pandemic which was a massive wake up call for me and has taught me to take my allergy much more seriously.
When I’d just started at Co-op, I went out for lunch with colleagues to a café. I ordered a Thai curry, being careful to ask the waiter if there were any sesame or nuts in the dish, which he told me it didn’t.
After eating it I immediately felt tightness in my throat. I didn’t have my medication with me – that’s my EpiPen, which is an adrenaline injector. I usually kept it in my car’s glove box, but I’d borrowed a car that day as mine was in for a service. So without any medication to hand, I quickly decided to leave my colleagues to drive myself to the hospital and get medical attention.
I soon hit heavy Manchester traffic and my tongue and throat continued to swell. I didn’t think I’d make it to hospital so I phoned 999, but with my swelling they couldn’t understand what I was saying so I couldn’t explain my location to the call handler. Just before losing consciousness, I managed to open all my car doors and switch my hazard lights on, alerting other drivers to my position. I was really lucky and the ambulance crew found and treated me.
I was the scariest experience of my life, but it’s taught me so much. If you have a serious allergy, please make sure your medication is ‘in date’ and you have it with you at all times. It’s also important that your family, friends and work colleagues are aware of your allergy and they know what to do if you need help. Please don’t be embarrassed by your allergy and never try to find help by yourself like I did.
Anything which helps raise awareness of serious allergies is important to me. I fully support the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation and their fundraising to find a cure for allergic reactions, so that I no longer have to fear life threatening reactions when I eat food.
Please help support Allergy Awareness Week buying products from our Free From range this week. The Co-op Free From range spans milk, egg and gluten-free products, meaning there’s something for everyone to enjoy, whatever their food allergy.
Go to the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation to find out more information about allergies or follow @NatashasLegacy #Natashas Army to march alongside Natasha’s Foundation as they create essential change needed to cure allergic disease.