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.

Co-op’s commitment

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.

Check our Social Hub for how you can raise awareness about allergies with your networks. The Co-op Allergy Training is available on the MyLearning portal.

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.   

Join the conversation! 6 Comments

  1. Hi My Daughter has an allergy to vanilla and we have had a few very close calls .Lots of people don’t know this is use in things like tin peas as a natural preservative. Many well known brands do not mention this on the list of ingredients . all ingredients should be listed individually not just a general natural preserver line

  2. What a wonderful article so powerful and it really makes you think what an allergic reaction can mean

  3. Thanks for sharing your story Conor!! Thank goodness your quick thinking paid off.

  4. Hi All,

    Its reassuring to hear that there are others out there who also suffer from Nut and other food allergies, as I have in the past felt alone with my condition!

    I have had nut allergies since I was young, always carrying around antihistamines with me and being prescribed with an EpiPen since 2012 after one bout in which I was taken to A&E in case as a precautionary measure.

    Thank you Conor for sharing your experience as well, I am so relieved to hear that you got seen to in time. A reminder to make sure I always have my EpiPen with me!

  5. Conor, really powerful article, thanks for sharing your experience. I too suffer from a severe allergy to nuts, and carry 2 x epi-pens with me at all times. It definitely has an impact on my life, and does make me anxious and more cautious when I’m eating in restaurants etc. There’s so much been done to improve awareness of allergens in food, but so much more needs done in terms of making it clearer on restaurant menus, and also better understanding of the differences between allergies and intolerances.

  6. Some really good tips in this article. I suffer with a serious allergy to Peanuts and have had two reactions over the past few years which have differed in severity. It has a huge impact in day-to-day life and does make dinning out a lot more stressful!

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