(Photo courtesy of: UMass Lowell) “The dining hall rarely have allergin labels which could be deadly for some students.”
We are always writing about the downfalls and occasional highlights of the UMass Lowell dining hall system. I have recently realized there is a major downfall to their system with labeling allergens. I have noticed this mainly with the dessert section in McGauvran, which has had the same sheet listing the desserts offered almost every night.
Now, I am lucky enough not to have any food allergies, but I know how dangerous they can be to so many people. I do have to carry an epi-pen for an allergy to bees and, as a result, it has made me much more aware of other allergies people have. A few weeks ago, I was leaving the dining hall with some friends after dinner, and as always, I checked to see what they were offering for dessert. There was the same outdated list of “Chocolate Chip Cookies, Apple Pie” and a few other things I can’t remember, but these listed desserts were not what had been laid out for students to take that night. Among the desserts presented were cupcakes with what looked like to be caramel drizzled on top of the frosting. I grabbed one, not thinking much of it, and took a bite out of it as we walked back to our dorm. I kind of made a face as I ate it, realizing what had been drizzled on top was melted peanut butter.
If someone other than me had grabbed the cupcake, they could have had an allergic reaction which could have been life-threatening. That night, my friends and I quickly began to discuss how dangerous this is for the dining hall to be doing; food allergies need to be labeled even when it may be inconvenient. I know that there is the True Balance option offered in the dining hall, but they do not offer desserts that are allergen-free. This leaves students who suffer from food allergies to take the risk and have something from the general area. Labeling all foods in the dining hall of their major allergens is not that difficult and can take away the threat of a life-ending reaction.
Every time I have had to bring food to something, like a party or a bake sale, I have been required to label what allergens are in it so I really don’t see why the dining hall is allowed to get away with this. They are choosing to be lazy instead of changing the dessert listings to help people be educated about what they are eating. There are so many easy ways to do this, especially when they have a display that would only require switching out the paper for an updated list. People have also suggested getting a whiteboard or a chalkboard and simply writing the desserts on it daily.
This issue extends far beyond the dessert table. There are very rarely allergens listed clearly in the dining hall. This is such a simple accommodation to offer students to help them feel safe and confident eating in the dining hall. I don’t feel like it’s asking a lot of the dining hall to simply label what allergens are in what dishes they are serving.