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Allergies in Carleton dining: a case against performative awareness

Allergies+in+Carleton+dining%3A+a+case+against+performative+awareness

I like yogurt and granola as much as the next person—perhaps more, given that it’s one of the few things I can reliably eat in the dining halls. And I appreciate that the LDC has granola. I’m really not sure what I would eat for breakfast every day without it.

This week is allergy and autoimmune disease awareness week in the dining halls, and I will admit that my expectations were fairly low. In my two trimesters at Carleton, I’ve seen regular muffins labeled as gluten-free, been told that I should’ve realized that the pasta labeled gluten-free isn’t gluten-free because it’s so obvious (while yes, I knew that, I still didn’t think it should be mislabeled) and seen a sign for gluten-free couscous. Couscous, by the way, is a form of wheat. So when I read the campus announcement, I didn’t expect much from Bon Appétit in terms of celiac disease awareness on Monday.

It was early when I got to LDC, and I really wasn’t thinking about the fact that it was Celiac Disease Awareness Day very much until I saw a sign at the gluten-free station about allergy awareness. It was directly underneath the sign about how there is “gluten-friendly” food, which means it’s “made without gluten-containing ingredients” but may still be cross-contaminated.

I was, however, quite aware of my celiac disease, in terms of the fact that I wandered around LDC for a while realizing there was very little I could eat. I’m not certain that’s the type of celiac disease awareness that Bon Appétit was really going for, though.

But on a more serious note, the lack of gluten-free food on campus is a serious problem for many students. Food that is cross-contaminated should not be labeled as gluten-free. Gluten should not be labeled as gluten-free. Some of the errors seem comical一and to a certain extent, they are一but they’re dangerous.

According to the “Guide to Food Allergies and Celiac Disease at Carleton”, “steps are taken to manage the risk of cross-contact” for the foods labeled gluten-free, and “if you react to smaller traces of gluten, [Bon Appétit] can work with you individually to determine appropriate dining options.” People with celiac disease do react to traces of gluten; that’s part of why it can be so challenging to trust a dining hall for gluten-free food.

Signs on the tables say that the symbol with the arrow and the letter “G” “denotes items that are made without gluten-containing ingredients but does not indicate they are gluten-free.” To me, there seemed to be an irony in the fact that Bon Appétit’s celiac disease awareness included the information that there is no gluten-free food in the dining halls.

There is, however, reliably vegan food for students who choose to be vegan. Any foods labeled with the vegan symbol “contain absolutely no animal or dairy products.” 

Veganism is a choice. It is a choice that students should absolutely have the option to make, but it is still a choice. Students with celiac disease don’t have a choice. The gluten in “gluten-friendly” will destroy the inside of their stomachs, will make them incredibly sick in the short term and leave damage that will last for months. And yet Bon Appétit can guarantee vegan food when they can’t guarantee gluten-free food.

So yes, when I walked into LDC on Monday, I was aware of my celiac disease. It would be great if the Carleton dining halls could be aware of it too.

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About the Contributor
Becky Reinhold, Editor in Chief
I'm a junior Philosophy major, and I can usually be found in the basement of Anderson or wandering around Northfield. I like thunderstorms and writing articles around 2am. Becky was previously Managing Editor, Viewpoint Editor, and Design Editor.
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