Labels save lives

A call for labels is needed after an allergic reaction in the SCCC cafeteria


Brianna Rich

After a reported allergic reaction by a student, there has been a realization that the cafeteria needs labels which say what is in certain foods. If there were labels, it would save many students from having to worry about what is in the foods.

Under the fluorescent lights and above the checkered tiled floor of Seward County Community Colleges’ cafeteria, a student picked up a seemingly harmless, warm, freshly-baked chocolate chip cookie. To their delight, they took a bite, not thinking anything beyond their simple pleasures, until dread flooded their mouth with the taste of peanuts. 

In disbelief, I, the student, had my friend’s taste just to be sure. Without a doubt, one of my greatest fears came to life. I had about ten, well now nine, minutes before this turned deadly.  

“I thought my roommate was about to die, I was about to cry,” Milo Lancaster, a freshman from Herriman, Utah, said.

“I thought my roommate was about to die, I was about to cry,”

— Milo Lancaster

Having a severe peanut allergy, fear around every food has been engraved into my way of life. If there’s not a label you don’t eat it, even if it’s homemade – especially if it’s homemade.

Labels structure my life. 

But lately, I have been forced to let boundaries down or go hungry because the SCCC cafeteria does not have a single label on any piece of food or dessert. This is the reason I did not suspect peanuts in a chocolate chip cookie that I have eaten many times before.   

The average anaphylaxis reaction takes around 2-15 minutes for me. This means my throat will close off and I will not be able to breathe until I acquire an Epinephrine shot or more commonly known as an epi-pen. 

What most people don’t know is that an epi-pen costs almost $700 on average for 2 shots, according to Medical News Today. I am beyond blessed to be able to afford this but in the past, it was not feasible so my family and I learned to manage. If time allows before a reaction begins, you can take the max Benadryl and just hope it’s strong enough to stop your reaction. Luckily this proved effective after the cookie fiasco but what if it hadn’t? 

Had a reaction occurred, it would have followed with the epi-pen and a trip straight to the emergency room. It also would have refrained me from all athletic activity for a couple of days and without a doubt a little bit of trauma. 

This opened my eyes to the need for labels or warnings in the cafeteria. If a warning of “may contain nuts” were on display, I would have completely detoured myself from this edible mistake. 

Beyond labels, food safety is also a major concern, as cross-contamination is very dangerous. 

I was able to stop my reaction because I knew I had eaten an allergen. Had I not known, it would have been too late. Peanuts and coconut have both been seen in the salad bar and around the ice cream toppings. 

My proposal is when the cafeteria uses common food allergies, they need to inform the customers through either labels, warnings or verbally. Not only would they bring down the fear of many students who have similar allergies to me but it would improve the confidence consumers have in the safety and handling of their food.

I do appreciate and applaud the cafeteria staff for the cleanliness and organization of food but labels are needed for students like me to not fear every bite they take not knowing if it will be their last.