'It really sucked': Food allergies send 2nd cadet packing

A second cadet from Newfoundland and Labrador has been sent home from a mainland camp due to food allergies, and now his family is calling for a policy change in military cafeterias.

Dad says overreaction to 'minor' symptoms ruined camp experience for son

Adam Strong, 15, and his father Derek Strong talked to CBC about what happened after an allergic reaction at CFB Greenwood. (CBC)

A second military cadet from Newfoundland and Labrador has been sent home from a mainland camp due to food allergies.

Adam Strong, 15, of St. John's returned to the province last week from CFB Greenwood in Nova Scotia, and said he is "devastated" by what happened.

Strong's story follows that of 15-year-old Faith-Ann Warford of Mount Pearl, who was told to leave cadet camp in Gagetown, New Brunswick, because the camp could not accommodate her allergies to eggs and other foods.

Adam is allergic to dairy, eggs, nuts and soy and has some "environmental allergies," he said. But that was made clear to the military.

"We were very excited to have been chosen for camp," Strong's father, Derek Strong, told the St. John's Morning Show Thursday.

He said there was full disclosure of health issues.

"That happened months ago, and we submitted Adam's medical profile like you have to do for all cadets. They scrutinized it and offered him a spot in Greenwood, so we were thrilled."

Strong said his son's allergies were discussed with the commanding officer at Greenwood.

"He said 'we have all kinds of cadets with food allergies. We can't promise anything, because obviously this is a cafeteria, but we do this all the time.'"

Small pea causes 'panic'

Adam Strong said the trip to camp was his first time away from home and the unexpected happened.

"We found out that there were peas in the shepherd's pie. I was eating it and looked down as there was a pea, and I kind of freaked out," he said. The peas made his mouth itchy.

"The alarms were sounding in my head saying, 'This is it, people.'"

Strong said he told nearby officers what was going on, and was taken to the camp clinic.

Adam Strong says he was devastated when he was sent home from a military cadet camp, when he was prepared to manage his allergies through medication and extra food he'd brought from home. (CBC)

Derek Strong said the allergic reaction was "low level" and could have been treated with a couple of antihistamine tablets. "He [Adam] keeps them in his EpiPen pouch."

The reaction of camp staff, he said, was "a lot of panic ... and really unnecessary," and he said the doctor refused to talk to the family about the decision to send Adam home.

"I was really stricken," said the young cadet. "It came out of left field, absolutely ... It was devastating, actually. It really sucked."

Calling for policy change

Adam and his father said they tried to make their case, arguing that he had brought his own food supplies — in case he needed to supplement the choices at the camp cafeteria.

"There was 40 pounds of food in a suitcase. I'm not joking," said Derek Strong. "We had enough for every meal, for three weeks."

The camp organizers told the family no.

"The answer they gave us was because it wasn't fair. It wasn't fair to give him his own food when the others are eating from the cafeteria," said Derek Strong.

"Why are they excluding children with food allergies, when food allergies are such a common thing? .... Why are you inviting them in the first place, and then pulling the rug out from under them?"

The family eats out all the time without any issues, said Derek Strong.

He believes the military, like most major restaurants, can design a meal option for people with allergies.

With files from St. John's Morning Show