From the food allergy community to WestJet: prioritize safety over snacks
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Food allergies are a terrifying reality for 1 in 13 North Americans. That's 7.5% of Canadians (approximately 2.7 million of us).
To put things in perspective:
- 300,000 Canadians have Type 1 Diabetes
- 1 in 133 must follow a gluten-free diet
- 1 in 68 Canadian children live with autism
For those with food allergies, accidental ingestion of everyday foods like milk or eggs or peanuts or nuts, including almonds and cashews, can result in a life-or-death reaction, called anaphylaxis. For some, these allergies are airborne. For others, a drop or a crumb is enough to put their lives in very grave danger.
Food-allergic individuals live in fear of foods that the rest of the population eats without a second thought. So we avoid restaurants that can't accommodate and opt out of social outings we deem unsafe. We put up with eye rolls and exasperated sighs. We cringe each time a comedian makes us the butt of their joke.
And we are disheartened when we are viewed as an inconvenience—when really, we represent a huge business opportunity—but we also kind of get it.
See, we live with this inconvenience every single day of our lives.
This is why it hurts our hearts when those without food allergies grumble when asked to temporarily refrain from eating our allergen. And it's why those who demonstrate understanding and compassion are sort of like our heroes.
WestJet used to be one of the good guys. In fact, they were the number one choice for many Canadian allergy families due to their wonderfully accommodating allergy policies. They made us feel safe and welcome aboard their flights.
That is, until April 4, 2018.
Things are changing at WestJet... and not for the better. First, they decided to get rid of their onboard EpiPens in 2016. The community was surprised and disappointed. But we also understood that carrying an EpiPen is first and foremost our responsibility. So we remained loyal. (Although this isn't helpful for previously non-allergic individuals who have their first anaphylactic reaction on a plane. Yes, this actually happened.)
But now that they've decided to introduce almonds onto their onboard menu, many of us can't help but wonder where their priorities lie. Are the wants of their Plus guests really more important than the safety of passengers with food allergies?
Because, the sad truth is: These guests can live without almonds for a few hours. Those with allergies to tree nuts on the other hand? They CAN'T live WITH them.
How is this good business? The food allergy community might just have been WestJet's most loyal group of customers. And now we're being made to feel like we're no longer welcome, like our safety is not valued. This seems to go against everything WestJet stands for.
And if we're talking inconvenience, an anaphylactic reaction that results in an emergency landing halfway through a flight would be way more inconvenient than replacing a bag of nuts with a box of raisins.
Food allergies are not a sensitivity, nor are they a lifestyle preference—they are a life-threatening disability. Ontario Human Rights Commission states: "Human rights case law has recognized that anaphylaxis is a disability under the Code. Therefore, employers, housing providers and service providers (including education providers, daycares, etc.) have a legal responsibility to accommodate people with potentially life threatening allergies, as they would any other person with a disability, to the point of undue hardship."
Join us in urging WestJet to reconsider the addition of nuts to their menu. Please sign the petition and help us spread the word.
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