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Article of Interest - Food Allergies

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An Open Letter to Disney/ABC About Food Allergies
Denise Child, June 20, 2005
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Anne Sweeney, Co-Chairman, Media Networks
Disney-ABC Television Group
3800 West Alameda Avenue
Burbank CA 91505

ABC, Inc
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521

Chairman of the Board
The Walt Disney Company
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521

Re: Disney Channel Disregard for Safety of Children And Mocking of Serious, Life Threatening Disabilities

Dear Ms. Sweeney & Sirs:

I am writing of a matter of great concern to me. You have broadcast a show providing dangerously inaccurate information and shockingly irresponsible role modeling, which could easily result in the deaths of school age children. I am not a letter-writing looney, in fact I have never written a letter to a television company before. However, what I saw last night on the Disney Channel struck me with fear for the safety of my child and for others like him with life-threatening food allergies.

Every night at 7:30 pm EST on the Disney Channel hundreds of thousands of kids watch a show called “That’s So Raven”. Lots of times it is a re-run so they watch each episode over and over again. Last night I watched this show with my fifth grader and saw this:

The show was a spoof of Iron Chef with two teams cooking. “Raven” was on one team with her father. The required ingredients included mushrooms and you learned in the show that Raven was allergic to mushrooms. Her father saw the mushroom ingredients and cautioned her not to touch them and set them aside. The opposing team as a “funny joke” for the sitcom, INTENTIONALLY THREW MUSHROOMS INTO HER FOOD. She ate some and the allergic reaction was grotesquely spoofed, showing her face and hands swelling but she is able to breathe and talk and make a joke hoping that her behind was not getting bigger too, ha ha. (In an accurate depiction of a systemic reaction, she would be vomiting, struggling to breathe as her lungs and throat closed, and losing consciousness as she slipped into anaphylactic shock, possibly followed by death, even if emergency treatment were administered). She downplays her reaction and says its “no big deal” and “will go away in five minutes” (totally inaccurate). Her father tries to take her to the doctor but she refuses to go and is made out to be a HERO for toughing it out without treatment.

I was shocked and horrified by this program. This show is going to play over and over again in front of elementary school children all over the country for months, if it hasn’t already. Of the thousands of kids watching, how many will think its funny to play the same “joke” on their food-allergic friend at school? You have taught them with this show that everyone would laugh, including their food-allergic friend, and there would be no serious consequences.

Not to mention the lessons you gave food allergic children. For kids like mine who remember their most recent reaction and how bad it was, you told them with this show that the Disney Channel thinks their possible death is funny, and that they need to fear other people trying to hurt them intentionally with such a joke. For kids who may not remember their serious reactions (i.e. if they were too young at the time), you showed them that having a food allergy reaction is not as bad as their parents and doctors say, and its not important to follow the plan for getting immediate medical treatment, and that your friends will find it brave and funny if you just stick it out and make fun of your symptoms.

There is no way for you to repair the damage that you have done. I and so many other teachers and parents of allergic children have worked very hard at our children’s schools to educate kids and to keep them safe. You have just dropped a grenade on all our efforts.

How funny would this show be if you showed them pushing a kid down the stairs in a wheelchair? The kid in the wheelchair would have a better chance of surviving than my son would have if this food allergy “joke” were played on him! Who at Disney/ABC decided it was humorous to make fun of a life-threatening medical disability? Why not show someone going into insulin shock; that would be really hysterical. Better yet, let’s make fun of blind or deaf people! Think of the possibilities in the sitcom world! Get the message here- this was just sick! The author of this material should cringe in shame.

The very least you can do at this point is pull that episode off the air permanently. If you were a responsible company who cared about these kids at all, you would run a public service slot educating kids correctly about the food allergy issue during the same time slot, so that maybe we can prevent some of the “jokes” you have inspired among these children, and possibly save some lives.

I have shared this information with some organizations who also care about the safety of food-allergic children. I look forward to hearing your explanation for this travesty and your proposal for what you can do to mitigate the safety risk that you imposed on our food allergic children as a result of your insensitive and irresponsible program.


Denise Child
37 North Main Street
North Grafton, MA 01536

cc (hard copy):

The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network
11781 Lee Jackson Highway
Fairfax, VA 22033-3309

American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology
85 West Algonquin Road, Suite 550
Arlington Heights, IL 60005

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology
555 East Wells Street, Suite 1100
Milwaukee, WI 53202-3823

American Academy of Pediatrics
141 Northwest Point Boulevard
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1098

Food Allergy Awareness, Support & Training
Post Office Box 565
Loveland, Ohio 45140

American Medical Association
515 North State Street
Chicago, IL 60610

Allergy Asthma Network
2751 Prosperity Ave, Suite 150
Fairfax, VA 22031

Anaphylaxis Canada
416 Moore Avenue, Suite 306
Toronto, ON M46-IC9

ec (Via email):

Mothers of Children Having Allergies
National Association of Food Safe Schools


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