Following the USA release of the children’s film Peter Rabbit, the Anaphylaxis Campaign was very concerned to learn that in one scene, the rabbits deliberately pelt the film’s antagonist Tom McGregor with blackberries after learning that he has a severe allergy to the fruit. The character Tom reportedly collapses to the ground and has to use his life saving emergency medication – known as an adrenaline auto-injector.
Lynne Regent, Chief Executive of the Anaphylaxis Campaign, said:
“Severe allergies are not a laughing matter; anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction and can be fatal. Including a scene, in children’s film, in which a character with known food allergy is maliciously and deliberately exposed to their allergen is irresponsible, as making light of such a serious issue may cause people to think that the risks are less severe.
Understandably, parents and carers of children who are at risk of anaphylaxis are very angered to hear these reports from the USA about the Peter Rabbit film. We have not been able to view the scene in question, as the film has not yet been released in the UK. We understand the producers have apologised for their depiction of food allergy in the film, but we would expect further action to be taken considering the issues that have been raised by the allergic community. We will be communicating with the production company about this.
Sadly, we know of some incidents of ‘allergy bullying’ in schools where pupils have deliberately exposed other pupils to their allergens. Bullying in any form is not acceptable, but for pupils with severe allergies the potential consequences are deadly, which is why any incidents should be dealt with very seriously by all involved.
We would urge any families who have seen the film to discuss with their children why it is so important to look after people who are at risk of severe allergic reactions and not to copy the actions of the fictional characters.”
Advice for parents and carers
There is no quick and easy answer to the problem of bullying. But encouraging your child to include their friends in their allergy management will help if someone tries to tease them, pick on them, or bully them about their allergy.
We have advice on our website called ‘Letting go: teaching an allergic child responsibility’ which is designed to help you teach your children how to live with allergies. There is no one correct way, nor is there a set pattern; the words you use will change as your child grows, but the principles will remain the same.
You can access this advice guide here: https://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/2016/11/25/letting-go-teaching-allergic-child-responsibility/
Advice for schools
The amendment of the Children and Families act in 2013 following campaigning by the Anaphylaxis Campaign and other charitable organisations, means that schools in England are required by law to make appropriate arrangements for supporting pupils with long-term health needs including the social and emotional implications associated with medical conditions.
We have advice on our website for schools at www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/schools and a free online anaphylaxis training course designed to ensure that staff in schools are fully aware of the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, how to provide emergency treatment and how to manage and care for children at risk. Visit www.allergywise.org.uk to register.
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