Chick-fil-A is one of the most controversial kid spots among food allergy parents we have encountered. Some are adamantly against setting foot inside the door, while others insist that there is no risk of a reaction. The real issue is whether or not 100% refined peanut oil poses a threat to those who are allergic to peanuts.
In a nutshell (pun intended) the debate is as follows. Allergic reactions are caused by food proteins. The process of refining peanut oil is said to remove all peanut proteins, leaving a product that is very different from peanuts or peanut butter, from an allergy perspective. Some trust the process, while others remain skeptical that the process could be completely flawless, yielding a hypo-allergenic refined peanut oil.
Here is how Chick-fil-A addresses the controversy… http://www.chick-fil-a.com/Food/Ingredients-Peanut-Oil.
For us, Chick-fil-A has always been a sore spot. We have subscribed to the “don’t set foot in the door” camp since Elena was diagnosed in September of 2009. Being anaphylactic to egg and dairy, as well as all nuts didn’t help our comfort level. Considering the fact that their nuggets and chicken strips contain both dairy and egg ingredients and their buns are processed on shared equipment with milk, we would pretty much be left with a fruit cup. It was an easy stance to take. After all, who is going to take even the slightest risk just to take your child into a place where other kids are enjoying mounds of delicious looking nuggets with all sorts of wonderful dipping sauces, fries, ice cream cones, etc., and all they can have is a fruit cup? Not us.
The tables were turned for us with two recent changes. We can only assume that someone put a bug in that cow’s ear. Chick-fil-A made the switch from peanut oil to canola oil for their fries. Mind you, this switch was only for fries. The chicken, which contains our other allergens anyway, is still cooked in peanut oil. But now, the fries are safe. Suddenly we are at fries and a fruit cup. Hmmmmmmmmm.
Next, Chick-fil-A came out with their grilled nuggets. We knew these had potential to be safe. After I emailed the company and received allergen information on the new grilled nuggets, we turned a corner. We now have fruit cup, fries, grilled nuggets, and let’s not forget polynesian sauce for dipping. Yes folks, that’s a full meal.
A couple of weeks ago, we ventured into Chick-fil-A for the first time with our 3 ½ year old. She ate, she dipped, she played. She talked about it for days as if she had been to Disney World. She since has been a handful of times and every experience has been wonderful. She gets the grilled nuggets kids meal with fruit and apple juice. We haven’t done the fries yet, but I’m not afraid of them. “I’m afraid of fries” seems like a funny thing to say to most people, but I know you other food allergy parents feel me.
Chick-fil-A is almost a rite of passage for kids in our region. It is a special treat, a reward for good behavior, a place to play and eat, a play-date spot, a daddy daughter date night destination, and for us, it is now an option. It’s so amazing to add even one food option to your list when you have a child with life threatening food allergies. Also, people start to recognize you. After several visits, we quickly became known as the grilled nugget family. We all get grilled nuggets and try to keep our table as safe as possible. Among us, there are probably 30 grilled nuggets at the table and fruit cups galore. What a blessing to be able to experience this rite of passage with our little girl.
Cunningham family, you have successfully added Chick-fil-A to your safe dining repertoire. What are you going to do next?
We’re going to Disney World!!!!!
Seriously, we’re going to Disney World next week. Check back soon for some truly magical blogging from the happiest place on earth.