In the Caf, there are labels that sit directly next to the available food choices. But the issue is: not every available dish comes with a tag. This is an issue when it comes to food allergies throughout campus. According to the Food Allergy Research and Education website, food allergies affect up to 15 million Americans and can be potentially life threatening. Just being around products like nuts can cause some to have serious reactions.
Our campus cafeteria is trying to label the food we eat, but when it comes to accuracy, they are falling flat. This is causing many students to stay away from Dining Services altogether. In the Caf, the labels that are put out are often spelled incorrectly which worries students about the accuracy of what is put on them. Many students, including some close friends of mine, have peanut allergies and worry about consuming the food that they are paying such a high price for.
In many places around our country, it is easy to go nut free. I have gone to a summer camp that is completely nut free, leaving the campers without worry of accidentally eating something that is harmful to their health. The other campers and staff learn to live without peanuts and are able to have other options for products such as peanut butter. Why can’t our cafeteria do the same? The risk that comes with eating something when you have a food allergy can be life threatening. Since we have only three options of where we eat on campus (the Caf, the Gizmo and the C-Store), why should our only food sources be frightening to some students?
The first thing that the Knox Cafeteria should do is accurately label all the food that is put out during meal times. Since not all the available food is labeled with a tag, such as the pasta salads near the bread section, we are often playing guessing games, which aren’t sufficient or safe to the students in attendance.
I have noticed that the peanut butter cookies do not even have peanuts on the listed ingredients. Although in this case the ingredient is in the name of the food, it is better to be over-cautious than to assume. When peanuts are a leading allergen they most definitely should be within the labeled ingredients.
I remember that during Fall Term a friend of mine saw a seven layer bar that was offered in the dessert section but was very hesitant to eat it because of her peanut allergy. The label did not say that any nuts were included, but when I tried it, it had a strong taste of some kind of nut. Examples like this are why it is hard to trust the tiny labels on campus food items.
My allergic friend isn’t the only one who suffers from mislabeling. There are many students who avoid the caf altogether because of the harm it could cause them. Yet, they are still forced to pay the price of our meal plans.
With such an expensive price to pay for the food we eat, we should not be unaware of what we are putting in our bodies. Our food service here can and should be better. The Knox cafeteria should be a safer place to eat for all.