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A little sign goes a long way

Observer Viewpoint | Tuesday, August 29, 2006

One and a half million Americans suffer from peanut allergies, many of which are severe and can induce poignant reactions resulting in extreme difficulty in breathing. Such reactions necessitate immediate Emergency Medical care.

This weekend, a lack of labeling in North Dining Hall, a bite of a peanut butter cookie and a freshman with a tongue beginning to swell and throat beginning to close led to my first trip to the ER this semester as a resident assistant. Spooning multiple tablespoons of Benadryl and giving pats on the back don’t always do the trick.

Regular chocolate chip cookies (without peanut butter) had sat on an identical tray in the identical spot only the day prior to the incident. Yet on Saturday, the seemingly identical chocolate chip cookie facade belied the deadly (and not very pleasing to my palate) peanut butter flavoring.

Signs are not difficult to make. I have them all over my section: Flush the toilet. Turn off the radio. PW is the best dorm on campus. I could help you out NDH, I have some extra construction paper. I’ll send a piece over tomorrow – it will say: Peanut Butter Cookies. And in front of the brownies with nuts: Contains Nuts.

OK, I’m not trying to bash the dining hall – we obviously are very lucky to have such a hardworking, friendly, warm staff that serves us daily with a vast array of healthy and enjoyable choices – but that doesn’t excuse carelessness. I saw the cookie display again today – bereft of a sign. Let’s fix that. Let’s help out our vegans and vegetarians and lactose-intolerant patrons. Let’s make sure peanut-intolerant people aren’t closing up their lungs and calling NDSP to drive them to St. Joe’s when all they really wanted to do on Saturday afternoon was play section soccer.

As food connoisseurs, preparation artists and friendly card swipers to whom the Notre Dame community entrusts our eating welfare, we have certain basic expectations of the dining halls to ensure a par level (or maybe above par) of health and safety for members of the Notre Dame family in their daily eating endeavors. This weekend, that expectation was not met, but I have confidence that in order to best serve our allergy-burdened fellow students, NDH will strive to meet this prevalent, now vocalized, unmet need.

Julie Putnam


Pasquerilla West Hall

Aug. 28