Have you heard about the new Peter Rabbit Movie? It includes a scene where Peter and his friends send Mr McGregor into anaphylaxis by throwing blackberries at him, which they know he is allergic to. It has caused a lot of controversy with calls from some people in the allergy community to boycott it and backlash from others who claim it is a harmless cartoon.
I personally think it is an inappropriate and ill thought out storyline to include in a children’s movie, which they clearly did not seek expert guidance on. However, I think calls to boycott it will not stop the movie being shown and as it is released in the UK on Friday, we need to be thinking about how to use it in a positive way to inform and educate others about the dangers of food allergy bullying.
We won’t be seeing the movie, only because J doesn’t like Peter Rabbit, but I have already discussed the storyline with him as I don’t want someone else to talk to him about it first. I also decided it was a good idea to make sure his school were fully informed about it so wrote them this email:
The Peter Rabbit Movie is released this week and as you may know, it features a scene where a character has an anaphylactic reaction. There has been some concern about this as the reaction is triggered after Peter Rabbit and his friends deliberately target Mr McGregor with a food they know he is allergic to.
I have already spoken to my child about the issues it raises but thought it may be a good idea for you to have some information in case other children discuss it at school. It is a good opportunity to talk about the serious issue of food allergy bullying in a culturally relevant context.
Here are some points you may want to discuss:
You should never try to get someone to eat food they are allergic to as food allergies are serious and can make people very unwell
Teasing someone about their food allergy or threatening them with the food is a form of bullying and is never acceptable
Most bad reactions can be treated with an adrenaline injector (epipen) but the person would not recover quickly like in the film and would need to go to hospital
For older children it may also be worth discussing:
People can die from allergic reactions and the medicine does not always work
A teenager died last year after children in his school forced him to eat cheese he was allergic to. The boy who caused the allergic reaction was arrested.
Let me know if you would like any more information or resources and I am happy to help. There is some useful advice about food allergy bullying on the Anaphylaxis campaign website.
All the best
I hope that helps give you an idea of how you can approach your child’s school about the subject. Feel free to use all or any of this letter to pass on to your own teachers and help use the Peter Rabbit Movie to open up the discussion about food allergy bullying.
If you want to discuss the subject in more detail with your child, or a child who does not have food allergies, then there are some great questions to discuss from my friend Allie at MissAllergicReactor.
Let’s try to use this opportunity of allergies being portrayed in a worldwide film, however negatively, as a way to continue to educate others about living with food allergies.