As the blogger for SnackSafely.com, I frequently write about food allergy harassment and bullying and when I do, young Karanbir Cheema comes to mind. The 13-year-old boy coping with a milk allergy died in 2017 from anaphylaxis after he had been bullied by a classmate who flicked cheese at him. I still shudder when I think of his last day on earth and how his parents must be coping with the loss.
This weekend, food allergy harassment hit home.
My daughter, Elisabeth was diagnosed with peanut and egg allergies when she was one, a full decade before FARE was formed. The diagnosis was a difficult one, especially given that there were few resources at the time to help guide families coping with food allergies.
We did all we could to keep our daughter safe. My wife, Debra, kept a sharp eye out for anything that could conceivably cause our daughter a reaction. [The snack list she compiled and vetted for our school district would eventually evolve into the Safe Snack Guide years later.]
Fast forward to today: Elisabeth will turn 21 this month and is heading into her senior year at Rutgers University, a psychology major on her way to becoming a psychiatrist. She has grown into a bright, vivacious, independent young woman who is not afraid to stand up for herself. Needless to say, Debra and I couldn’t be more proud of her.
Earlier in the spring, she had requested and was granted housing in an on-campus apartment with a kitchen due to her allergies. She had informed her prospective roommates of her allergies in advance to give them ample opportunity to request another apartment if they found avoiding peanuts too restrictive.
Everything was smooth sailing until I received the call on Sunday from Elisabeth who was shaken and in tears. With only a week to go in the summer semester, a big jar of peanut butter suddenly appeared on the kitchen counter.
She asked her roommate Amanda to remove the jar, reminding her that contact with peanut butter could cause her to suffer a severe reaction, possibly leading to a jab with her epinephrine auto-injector and a trip to the ER.
Amanda’s response: “Well, I’ve been eating it and you’ve been fine.”
The comment floored Elisabeth who did not know that peanut butter was being consumed in the apartment.
She asked: “Can you please wait five more days days until the end of the semester?”
Her roommate insisted she wouldn’t.
Now, you might think Amanda is not terribly bright, but she is also heading into her senior year at the university as a cell bio/neuroscience major on a pre-med track.
Elisabeth told her that if she planned to go into medicine, she should learn about anaphylaxis and cross-contact. Amanda responded by calling her a “Dumb B*tch”.
When I received the call, I made the hour drive to Rutgers to find Elisabeth in the hallway with an RA (resident assistant) who had asked Amanda to reconsider. Given Amanda’s refusal, he was working on finding alternate accommodations for my daughter.
After much waiting, we were informed there was an open apartment in the same building. We spent the next hour moving Elisabeth’s things from one apartment to another.
I told Amanda we would be reporting the incident to school authorities and that I would be writing about the incident for my site.
There are a number of important takeaways I’ve gleaned from this ordeal.
First, colleges and universities need to take food allergies and celiac disease more seriously when planning housing for their students. While most do their best to accommodate students coping with those ailments in the cafeteria, they need to be more proactive in pairing students who are willing to accommodate food restrictions to prevent cross-contact, perhaps asking them to sign a contract forbidding problematic foods from being brought in.
Second, Amandas are indicative of a certain subset of people who have absolutely no regard for others. Given her course of study, she is obviously not a moron, unable to grasp the danger her actions present. No, Amanda did this willfully and fully informed of the possible consequences, another example of the callousness that pervades our society.
Last but not least, do we really want Amandas to be our physicians of tomorrow? I’ll leave that question for you to ponder and respond.
Wow, Amanda sounds like a real narcissist. What an insensitive brat. No way do I want this kind of person to be the doctor of our future. I commend you on holding it together like you did. I sadly, would have let her have it with a body slam to the ground.
Was there some kind of contract or agreement in writing that prevented her roommates from bringing peanuts into the apartment? I ask this because if so, I would expect Amanda to leave the apartment, not Elisabeth. Although given the fact that she had to immediately remove herself from a harmful environment, I would encourage her to fight for some justice, which in my opinion would be to force Amanda out of that apartment. Your daughter should not be the one to leave in this situation, and Amanda should be held accountable for her actions. This is more than just being a jerk or narcissist. Also, the university needs to back your daughter as well. Society in general needs to be more aware and stop being so dismissive of those with special needs, especially life threatening allergies.
This exact same scenario happened to my daughter at UConn. My daughter was also told she would have to change rooms because she was the one with the complaint. The terrible room mate was a pharmacy student, and so should also understand allergies.
My aunt kept trying to kill my daughter, I think she either wanted to prove me a fraud or prove th power of Jesus through causing a severe reaction and praying for her. I am now no contact! This should be considered assault!
This “Amanda” sounds very sneaky and inconsiderate. She has not respect for another person’s life. 100% no should she be a physician. I am so sick and tired of people being so inconsiderate when it comes to life threatening allergies. They do not care, they just want to make sure they have their nuts and the h*ll with what could happen with cross contamination. Thank God your daughter was safe. If she would have suffered an allergic reaction due to selfish Amanda, she should be sued. I agree with Rhiannon…this should be considered assault.
Yes, it is assault and she is old enough to know better. Please take legal action for the safety of others.
I would file as many complaints as I could. This is ridiculous. As a teacher I could lose my job over something like this and Amanda just gets to sit there and have no consequences?! That is absurd. She and the university need to do better.
When I had just turned 14, my mother’s uncle kept offering me pigs in a blanket that had sesame seeds on them. When I told him I was allergic to sesame, he said “Don’t worry, it’s ok to eat!”. When I told him it actually wasn’t, he started pushing the platter towards me a d kept saying “eat it!”. I had to back up and kept saying no, but he still did it.
He was, both figuratively and literally, BACKING ME INTO A CORNER! No respect, no consent given, and all fear from me. My father jumped between is and told him to go away, which he finally did.
It wasn’t until 6 years later that the full realization hit me, that he was THREATENING MY LIFE!
Now however, there’s no way I could lash out at him and have him be hurt for his actions on threatening to unalive a child because he suffered a traumatic brain injury about 2 years before I finally understood what he did, and he doesn’t remember much. Maybe that’s karma striking him, but I’d rather have knocked his head clean off.
The fact that he threatened me, and that my former aunt and uncle gave me severe flack for being careful about my food allergies, makes me be very cautious around most people and that I can’t trust them 100% without my anxiety sky rocketing.
I’m glad your daughter didn’t have a reaction and was able to get out of there although I’m not sure why she was the one who had to move.
Please make this complaint. This is the type of thing they will ask about when applying to med school and when applying for a medical license (same with law school too). Hopefully it shows up and caused her a lot of grief. Even more hopefully she never becomes a doctor because she sounds like a sociopath.
This makes me fear more for the future of medicine. What else does this person not take seriously? That is very dangerous for your daughter.
You clearly have a bright, resilient daughter who is thankfully safe and is in a safe residence.
As our society seems to become more inward, I am afraid these situations may become all too common.
As for the colleges, they absolutely need to get serious. I have one with Celiac and the other with anaphylactic egg allergies. Every school we toured said that they safely accommodate these children. The reality is that cross contact is a huge issue. He finds many other ways to eat besides on campus. It’s very hard.
Hugs to your daughter.
Although you and Elisabeth handled this situation with professionalism, I would encourage you both to take it a step further. As a state university, Rutgers is widely respected for its inclusion. The situation needs to be elevated to build awareness and to educate. The Rutgers Office of Student Affairs has an online reporting form for Student Conduct. Please review online at studentconduct.rutgers.edu/report-concern. In addition, the Office of Housing and Residence Life should be notified of this bias incident. Food Allergies are considered disabilities under ADA since the diets are restricted. The former roommate, Amanda, needs to be noted here. Elisabeth is protected by her rights as a student in state university housing. Godspeed!
Lol I hope Amanda reads this article and the comments. What a b-word! She sounds like a terrible person to be around, knowingly eating PB around someone who is deathly allergic. She should reconsider her career path.
Oh my goodness. You must have been so afraid. I’m so sorry your daughter and your family had to go through that.
In December I learned that my son who has a PN/TN allergy was being bullied in the 4th grade. Kids were putting their garbage (food wrappers and such) in his desk. My son was using a pair of pencils to remove the items and was afraid to tell us. I called the teacher and told him it would not happen again and I expected an immediate resolution. Things were resolved quickly. College is a whole different ball game.
What a shame that Amanda couldn’t develop enough as a person to learn basic concern for human life. What a shame our kids have these allergies at all.
Amanda should not become a doctor unless there is some soul searching and a complete 180 degree thought/action reversal. Med students should have a course taught about food allergies and their outcomes. This needs to be taken seriously. My daughter is anaphylactic to PN/TN/sesame seeds. She had kids at lunch take a pb&j and we’re jokingly waving in her face daring her and threatening to throw it at her. She was in 3rd grade. I spoke with her teacher after the incident and it was handled quickly and she educated the kids in her class about the seriousness of her allergies.
My daughter’s first roommate did this to her! She had also agreed in advance to no peanut/peanut butter in the room. My daughter had allowed her to share her fridge (the one she has because of her food allergies). And that’s where the roommate put the PB! This girl is a nursing major! 😱 I cannot understand. Troubling to me in addition is that the standard solution of colleges is to move the aggrieved party out of the room rather than moving the offending party. I think the offending party should have the consequence of moving.
Terribly sad that unless it happens to you and you are directly affected by food allergies, some will never attempt to understand or comprehend the depths of pain and daily survival that individuals and families go through. Compassion is lacking in society.
Amanda should have been the one to leave, period.
Given that the physician’s oath begins, “First, do no harm,” Amanda needs a lot of work on herself to build compassion before entering medical school. I am very sorry you and your daughter had to experience this danger and discrimination.
I am a physician who just retired after 32 years in practice. There is no way that I would fathom “Amanda” fulfilling that role. If she is that intentionally crass and has no understanding of her actions, she needs to be kept on the sidelines of her ambition. Not wanting to be vengeful to hurt her career ambitions, as I am sure it would be perceived, it is just a simple fact that she is no way qualified at this stage of her life to enter into a role of “do no harm”. This goes beyond ignorance, and shows the behavior of a vengeful child. Hopefully this blog will provide that safety for others in years to come from her actions today. Magical thinking has no place in medicine when others lives depend on it.
I should preface my comment with the fact that my younger daughter has an anaphylactic food allergy. So I am nowhere near unbiased in my opinion here.
In my opinion things have not been taken far enough in this situation. Your daughter should not have been the one to move, however I absolutely agree in choosing her safety first and having her move.
Not only would I file a complaint with residence life and the housing department, a complaint should also be made against Amanda with the university and request that it remain in her record exactly what she did. I cannot imagine this situation would look appealing to any future medical schools. I would also seriously consider filing a complaint with the campus police department.
I also recommend requesting a reasonable housing accommodation that allows her to have a single room for next year, since it’s been clearly shown her safety in a shared room is questionable.
Did Amanda really do anything wrong by eating in a place she pays to live in? If it’s that much of a concern for your daughter she shouldn’t have roomates. You can’t dictate people lives because you think you’re special
Seeing as the agreement to No pb/pb related items to be in the apartment before they all moved into together was acknowledged, then yes. She did. She agreed to the no pb and waited a couple days before his daughter was moving out.
It’s not about her thinking she’s special. It’s about her roommate being a witch for absolutely NO REASON.
This is something that could have caused her serious harm, and for what? Because her roommate wanted her to move faster? She sat on the couch and LAUGHED at her with her boyfriend as she was moving out. She was doing it be a jerk.
Hopefully you’re kinder to people in your life than you are people on the internet. And I pray that no one you know ever has this serious of allergies. ❤️
I would officially report Amanda to the head of her medical school. The medical school needs to know about this.
I came from Elisabeth’s TikTok. I’m completely floored by Amanda’s insensitivity and immaturity. I’m about the same age as your daughter and her ex-roommate: I cannot image myself, my friends, or any of my peers caring so little for someone we live with. Elisabeth should NOT have been punished (moved across campus) for her roommate’s poor behavior. The RA was horrifically irresponsible by putting the burden on y’all. All of this should have consequences- for AMANDA.
I’m glad Elisabeth noticed the PB before something worse happened. Hopefully she, and the rest of your family, can breathe a bit easier now. Good luck with the rest of this mess.
I just watched your daughters TikToks about the situation, and I am so sorry that someone could be that unbelievably rude! To laugh at the situation with her boyfriend while holding the bar of peanut butter. Ridiculous. Anyone involved in this situation should get in trouble, especially since it was IN WRITING that no pb related items to be in the apartment.
I’m glad she was able to get out of there. “Amanda” if you’re seeing this article and comment, you should be ashamed of yourself. As someone who almost lost my brother to his pb allergy because of someone like you, you should be absolutely ashamed.