B.C. Place's peanuts in the shell can prove perilous for allergy sufferers
A Kitsilano resident wants to put an end to peanuts in the shell at B.C. Place before they put an end to her.
Ashley Johnson, 35, says her peanut allergy is so bad that she’s experienced anaphylactic shock about 20 times, including once in New York City when she almost died.
Her father, Glen Johnson, is a former Canadian international and was the first signing of the earliest incarnation of the Vancouver Whitecaps back in 1974. He has Whitecaps season tickets, but the father-daughter duo can count on one hand the number of games they’ve attended this year at B.C. Place Stadium—only one, on opening night last October, seated close to the rowdy Southsiders.
The night was fraught with airborne hazards for Ashley, who must carry an EpiPen and a Twinject to provide various doses of epinephrine. She said peanuts present a heightened threat when their shells are cracked, as the resulting dust can travel through the air and she is deathly allergic.
“Well, I knew that it was going to be a problem right off the bat, but they had the roof open,” Ashley explained in a sit-down interview with the Georgia Straight. “So I thought it may be okay because there was enough air coming in.”
She and her father never got to see the end of the game.
“I didn’t have an anaphylactic reaction, but my asthma got bad, my eyes swelled up pretty bad, and I had to take Benadryl, which puts me out, makes me unable to function for two to three days,” Ashley said.
Vancouver-based allergist and immunologist Donald Stark told the Straight that there has been “an overall increase” in the prevalence of peanut and other food allergies over the past two decades.
“It really mirrors the increase in allergies in general in the whole of the developed world,” Stark said by phone.
After opening night last fall, Ashley contacted Rogers Arena and B.C. Place in writing and via email explaining her situation. She said that although Rogers Arena is phasing out the sale of peanuts in the shell, B.C. Place staff members have not even replied to her correspondence. Whitecaps president and former Canadian international Bob Lenarduzzi is supportive of the shell ban, the Johnsons claim.
Kathy deLisser, assistant general manager of guest experience at B.C. Place, said the staff there had replied to a handwritten letter from last fall, a claim Ashley refuted. As for Ashley’s emails, deLisser said in a phone interview, “We don’t know whether we received them or not.…It’s certainly not acceptable to not respond to emails that come in, and we’re usually pretty diligent in getting back to folks.”
As for Ashley’s ban request, deLisser said, “We haven’t chosen to do that at this point. We are continuing to look at alternatives that sort of meet the fan requirements and the needs of the fans that maybe don’t have the peanuts issues. So we’re looking for the products that we might be able to substitute them for.
“There certainly is a revenue component there,” she added. “And not that it’s about revenue, for sure, but it’s about what other snack items could we potentially introduce that don’t have the same impact for those with peanut allergies.”
Glen Johnson spoke to the Straight about the situation from his home in White Rock.
“They are living in the dark ages,” he said of B.C. Place, later adding the kicker, “I’ve got season tickets and I can’t even take my daughter to a bloody game this season.”