FARE Letter to NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack
On behalf of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), the nation’s leading organization advocating for people with food allergies and their families, I am writing to insist that you take action about a segment by Matt Lauer and Al Roker earlier this week in which they made offensive and inappropriate remarks about food allergies.
We are profoundly disappointed in the remarks made by Mr. Lauer and Mr. Roker during the segment that aired Tuesday, May 10, when Mr. Lauer and Mr. Roker visited a shop that sells pistachios. They mocked the issue of a life-threatening allergic reaction and joked about treatment. Making fun of food allergies is not only ignorant, but potentially dangerous. Both Mr. Lauer and Mr. Roker are journalists and role models who have the trust of the public. What message does it send to viewers, particularly younger viewers, when they are seen laughing about a disease?
The outrage about this would be palpable if this was cancer and not allergy, although young children are dying from both. The irony is that The Today Show does so much good in making the public aware of a variety of different diseases from colon cancer, to leukemia to breast cancer.
While Mr. Lauer and Mr. Roker might view what took place as a harmless moment of levity, the fact is that their lack of empathy and respect for the 15 million Americans with food allergies is offensive and harmful – during national Food Allergy Awareness Week, no less! FARE requests an on-air apology, and calls upon you to educate your viewers about food allergies by producing a segment that addresses the severity of food allergies. We would be happy to assist in this endeavor.
For more than 20 years, FARE has worked to raise awareness of food allergies and to help the general public understand the potentially life-threatening nature of this disease, which affects 1 in 13 children. Forty percent of these children have had a severe allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis. Many of these children go to the emergency room afraid they are going to die. It sets us back when the perception continues to be perpetuated that this is something that can be laughed about. This is especially problematic as studies show that more than 35 percent of children over the age of five have been bullied, teased or harassed because of their food allergy.
We are disheartened that national media personalities chose to behave in a juvenile manner and in the process did a disservice to those affected by food allergies and their families.
Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) is the world’s leading food allergy advocacy organization and the largest private funder of food allergy research. Our mission is to improve the quality of life and the health of individuals with food allergies, and to provide them hope through the promise of new treatments. FARE is transforming the future of food allergy through innovative initiatives that will lead to increased awareness, new and improved treatments and prevention strategies, effective policies and legislation and novel approaches to managing the disease. For more information, please visit www.foodallergy.org. To join FARE’s transformative five-year fundraising and awareness campaign, Contains: Courage™, supporting families living with food allergies and educating ALL communities about the disease, visit www.foodallergy.org/containscourage.