The story of Keith
“Contains milk.” Who would think that twelve characters, only two simple words, could mean so much? Yet, they do. It is estimated that each day throughout the world, less than five newborns are diagnosed with the rare metabolic condition known as Galactosemia. On February 9, 1997, I became one of them.
People who are affected by the rare medical disorder lack the enzyme necessary to properly break down lactose. Due to the many pronounced similarities, Galactosemia is frequently compared with lactose intolerance. One major difference is that lactose intolerance is a digestive system symptom, whereas Galactosemia is a genetic disorder. The bodies of people who are affected by lactose intolerance have the proper enzymes needed to breakdown milk. However, the consumer may get sick after milk consumption. People affected by Galactosemia lack the necessary enzymes for lactose breakdown. Therefore, it is not physically possible for them to consume milk. Their strict dietary concerns must be obliged to; otherwise, many physical long-term effects can occur. Some of these effects include kidney failure, eye cataracts, brain damage, and death. The importance behind the phrase “contains milk” has prompted me to adjust my lifestyle to read the labels on all food products. Walking through a supermarket has become a life-sized word search game, trying to find lactose ingredients, such as milk, whey, and dairy. My imperative adaptation has sparked my interest in the food industry, and prompted me to act.
At the age of twelve, I commenced my endeavor to change the multibillion-dollar food industry. I began contacting several of the world’s largest food corporations, including Kellogg’s, Hershey’s, and Nestle. My goal has been to persuade these companies into changing their foods’ ingredients to become more allergy-friendly. My theory is that food corporations can save money, thus increasing profits, by omitting milk from their foods. It is estimated that approximately three million people are affected by milk allergies, such as Galactosemia and lactose intolerance, across the United States. This statistic does not even include the large quantity of citizens who are vegans. By having food corporations eliminate lactose from their products, more people would be able to enjoy a wider variety of products. Evidently, the food company would be benefiting by increasing profit margins and expanding its customer base. While it may sound like a shot in the dark to have a single individual, like myself, persuade a million-dollar food conglomerate into doing anything at all, my experience has in fact been successful. I can proudly say that Kellogg’s has changed the ingredients of one of their signature Pop-Tart flavors after I wrote countless letters to their customer service representatives. While there is no evidence that suggests that my efforts were the direct cause of this change, I can only hope that I played even a miniscule role.
If there is one thing I can take from my experiences, I like to think that my endeavor has taught me how to advocate. I believe that God bestowed a voice upon me through my writing so that I would be able to speak up on behalf of all the Galactosemics of the world.