Recently teen celiac has not been feeling well. A mild stomach ache had been coming and going for several days. One of her friends had recently come down with a gastro bug so we thought she may have caught it too. Academic stress has also been high as everyone is getting ready for exams. No fever or other symptoms, just a sore tummy.
She stayed home one day but was okay the next morning. After a quick breakfast she headed off to school. A few hours later she had gotten sick and was at the nurse’s office asking to come home. After some rest and a cup of ginger tea, she was feeling better.
Later that night during dinner, she commented about the two jars of cereal that we had in the cupboard, she liked the chocolate one better than the apple cinnamon flavor. It took a few minutes for this offhand comment to sink in, but I suddenly realized that I only knew of one jar of gluten-free cereal that we had in the house. (We often put cereal in airtight jars to help deter the humidity and ants always present in our Singapore kitchen).
I went to investigate and to my horror discovered a second jar of cereal. The chocolate cereal was a sample I had brought home for the non-celiac child. It was no longer in its package, but I knew for sure the chocolate cereal was made from wheat flour.
Ever since our daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2006, we have lived in a gluten-free world. We keep the kitchen completely gluten-free to make sure there is no chance of accidental cross contamination. Her younger brother does not have celiac disease but has always been very supportive of his big sister’s dietary needs.
As the kids have entered teen years, the risk of accidental cross contamination has decreased. We have loosened up the rules a little bit and we have allowed the non-celiac child to have a stash of gluten-filled goodies. He understands that he must carefully eat them with not a crumbs left behind.
I had given a package of wheat-y chocolate cereal to my non-celiac son. He had opened it, eaten some and forgotten to take it off the table. Another family member came along and dumped the cereal into an unlabeled glass jar. I hadn’t noticed it in the dark cupboard. The celiac child had been snacking on it for five days. She had eaten a handful of it before leaving for school that day.
We quickly realized this was the cause of her sore stomach, nausea and vomiting. She stopped eating it, and soon felt much better, but I felt horrible. I immediately labeled the jar with a CONTAINS GLUTEN sticker and had a good talk with the whole family about being more careful. This was simultaneously everybody’s fault and nobody’s fault.
Here is what I would like you to take away from this story…
- Label Everything and make sure there is no chance it could be accidentally eaten someone who shouldn’t have it.
- Read Labels Carefully The ingredients on this package of cereal was written in tiny print and multiple languages. The english ingredient list was accidentally torn off when the package of opened.
- Ask Questions Even when it is repetitive or annoying. If my teen had asked about the new cereal, I might have picked up on this error much sooner.
- Stuff Happens Sometimes even the most vigilant and experienced of gluten detectives slips up. It’s not the end of the world, but it is a really good reminder not to get too comfortable.
If you live in Singapore and need your own set of labels for your kitchen, we have made them available on glutenfree.sg. Each pack contains two designs so everyone in your house will know just what they can and cannot eat! Any proceeds go towards continued gluten-free education and awareness in Singapore.