White House Easter Egg Roll Fell Short in Accommodating Kids with Celiac and Other Food Allergies
Our family had a terrific time at the 2023 White House Easter Egg Roll! The weather was perfect! It was cool to walk by the Oval Office and hang out on the South Lawn of the White House. Thank you President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden for hosting the traditional Easter Egg Roll, Easter Egg Hunt, various "EGGucation" activities and character appearances.
The Washington Post reported that the White House celebrated inclusivity and accommodated children with some disabilities at the Easter Egg Roll. However, those efforts fell short for kids with disabilities including Celiac Disease and some other major food allergies.
Celiacs Are Denied a Full Opportunity to Participate in Aspects of Economic, Social and Civic Life
Given life's daily activities that involve foods, Celiac touches every part of our lives. Eating out of the house is very challenging for Celiacs, and this impacts their quality of life on a daily basis. This represents an example of how Celiacs have been systematically denied a full opportunity to participate in aspects of economic, social and civic life.
It was heartbreaking to see Jax's disappointment that he was excluded from the food at the Easter Egg Roll! Neither of the fresh Easter sweets offered to kids (Lemon Meringue Mini Cannoli & Egg Tart) were labeled Gluten Free, and the staff had no idea what the ingredients were! As everyone exited the White House, volunteers handed out lots of candy to kids who collected it in their Easter Egg Roll souvenir bag. Think Easter meets Halloween.
Jax could NOT eat most of the Easter sweets and candy! In other words, the candy was not Gluten Free, was not labeled Gluten Free, or the product had a "may contain Wheat" statement. Period. Full stop.
It seemed that most kids ripped open their Easter candy and gobbled it up as they were leaving the White House. Not so fast for kids like Jax in the Celiac world with a potentially life-threatening allergy to Gluten. Instead he just watched other kids eat the sweet treats.
Although he had fun at the Easter Egg Roll, we quickly saw Jax's smile vanish when he felt excluded and the fear and uncertainty with the potential for danger arose with the voluntary labeling of Gluten in the U.S.
This is just like the time when President Biden gave Jax POTUS M&Ms that Jax could not eat since we did not know whether or not the M&M's ingredients contained Gluten. See "POTUS M&M's Epitomize Need to Label Gluten as a Major Food Allergen to Eliminate Fear & Danger."
There are many Top 9 Allergen Free and Gluten Free Easter treats that could have been given out to safely include all of the kids at the Easter Egg Roll.
Even though PEEPS Brand labels many of their products Gluten Free, the PEEPS Rainbow Pop which the White House handed out had a warning label that said: "ALLERGEN INFORMATION: MAY CONTAIN PEANUTS, TREE NUTS, MILK, WHEAT, SOY, AND EGG."
In addition to Lemon Meringue Mini Cannoli & Egg Tart at the Snack Time tent, we counted at least 13 different candy products that were given away. However, the only treat that was clearly labeled Gluten Free was Torie & Howard's Chewie Fruities!
My wife let Jax eat the Jelly Belly jelly beans because she has researched this candy and believes that it does not have any Gluten containing ingredients and that Gluten is not used in their manufacturing process, even though Jelly Belly does not label its products Gluten Free.
Celiac is a disability under the ADA. This is why Jax says that food insecurity happens every day for Celiacs because of the constant threat of cross contact and the fact that Gluten is not required to be labeled. Yet.
We hope that we can "EGGucate" the White House for the 2024 Easter Egg Roll to offer more inclusive foods for kids with Celiac Disease and other food allergies.
Moreover, we hope that President Biden, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and the FDA hear the clarion call that Gluten needs to be labeled as a Major Food Allergen on all packaged foods in the U.S., just like it is in 85 countries worldwide and in accordance with the 2021 Expert Consultation from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (chaired by the FDA's Dr. Lauren Jackson).