Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Know your food

Posted on Wed, May 8, 2013 at 2:28 PM

Restaurants: Congratulations on the mini-boom of new eateries. I hope you all enjoy a long and successful run in this city of hungry, adventurous souls.

Here's one idea that will help you become not only successful, but absolutely beloved by your clientele: make sure all your employees know what's in your food. It's both appalling and frustrating that so many restaurants won't or can't tell their customers exactly what they're eating. Something as simple as chicken strips, for instance. "Is there egg in the batter?" "Gee, I don't know. There's no ingredients on the big cardboard box they come in." That's just unacceptable.

If you're reading this, you probably know somebody with a food allergy. The trendy one at the moment is a sensitivity to gluten, which has restaurants and food manufacturers stumbling over themselves to provide "gluten-free" alternatives for a public that is convinced suffers from Celiac Disease. If only all of Missoula's restaurants were as diligent about other, potentially fatal food allergies.

Some studies say that up to five percent of the population has a severe food allergy. Peanuts, tree nuts, soy, milk, eggs, wheat, strawberries ... if you can think of a food, there's probably someone deathly allergic to it.

And that's my point. The food you're serving to the public could cause a fatal reaction if you've wrongly told it that it's free of the allergen in question.

If a customer asks you, for instance, if your Italian dressing has walnuts in it, and you say something like, "I'm pretty sure it doesn't," you're screwing with someone's life. Make it your job to find out beforehand. Know it. Learn it. Live it.

Front Counter Ignorance is an ongoing problem with restaurants, the result being that there is a limited number of restaurants where we can confidently take our children who have food allergies. Servers, cooks, phone order takers, anyone involved in the food delivery chain needs to be able to confidently and truthfully answer the questions posed by a parent whose only concern is to allow his child to eat the food and not get sick or die. When you have to carry an Epi-Pen everywhere you go, you'll know what I mean.

Some restaurants get it. Mustard Seed/Noodle Express is a good example. Our kids eat there frequently, and even though their menu features peanut sauce, my peanut-allergic son has never had a reaction caused by cross-contamination in the kitchen. And the servers can all tell you if any dish contains a potential allergen.

I don't really care if you're using locally grown kumquats or what local beer is used to glaze the beef. I want to know if the dish has any allergens in it, and if the cooks in the kitchen take their jobs seriously enough to avoid cross-contamination among the foods they prepare. Do us all a favor, new (and existing) Missoula restaurants. Get your employees up to speed on what's in your food so we can enjoy your board of fare with confidence.

Ednor Therriault


Not rolling with it

Posted on Wed, May 8, 2013 at 2:27 PM

To start, I did enjoy your recent article about new Missoula restaurants (see "All you can eat," May 4). In fact, your article inspired me to try some new places. However, something else bothered me. Jason McMackin, author of a small piece within this article (see "What's good here?"), came off as an absolutely insufferable douche. He believes that his minimum wage job baking rolls somehow makes him superior to us plebeian low-lifes who don't bake rolls, or something. He spends the majority of the article talking down to those who don't share his oh-so-desirable position in the social strata of roll-baker. Not only is it reasonable for a customer to ask for a recommendation at an eatery, it is part of the restaurant's duty to accommodate that simple request.

I know none of us could ever have the golden palate that McMackin apparently has, but who would know more about the food than those who prepare it? If you'd rather people not try anything at your store, I suppose that's your choice. Oh, and I suppose it's also good business practice to berate customers and refuse their money simply because they said something to question your high and mighty status as a pretzel-roll maker. The entire piece was rife with arrogance and pompousness. I suppose this is why he never named this godly bakery he works at. If I knew what pretentious bakery hired this narcissistic prick I would never eat there. It's sad to me that this is the kind of town Missoula has turned into. I grew up knowing this town as one of humble friendliness and acceptance, but apparently it's now one of upturned noses and designer rolls.

Connor Sandefur


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Oregon’s mistake

Posted on Thu, May 2, 2013 at 4:00 AM

I was disturbed by Alex Sakariassen’s article about the Montana doctor who claims to have assisted three patient suicides, euphemistically termed “aid in dying” (see “Cowardice to courage,” April 11). I am a cancer doctor with more than 40 years experience in Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal. I am also a professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Oregon Health and Science University.

I was first exposed to the assisted-suicide issue in 1982 shortly before my first wife died of cancer. We had just visited her doctor. As we were leaving, he had suggested that she overdose herself on medication. I still remember the look of horror on her face. She said, “Ken, he wants me to kill myself.”

In Oregon, the combination of assisted suicide legalization and prioritized medical care based on prognosis has created a danger for my patients on the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid). First, there is a financial incentive for patients to commit suicide: The plan will cover the cost. Second, the plan will not necessarily cover the cost of treatment. This is based on statistical standards. For example, cancer patients are denied treatment if they have “less than 24 months median survival with treatment” and fit other criteria. Some of these patients, if treated, however, would have many years to live, as much as five, 10 or 20 years depending on the type of cancer. The plan will cover their suicides.

In Oregon, the mere presence of legal assisted-suicide steers patients to suicide even when there is no coverage issue. One of my patients was adamant she would use the law. I convinced her to be treated instead. Twelve years later she is thrilled to be alive.

Don’t make Oregon’s mistake.

Kenneth Stevens

Sherwood, Ore.

Ensure safety

Posted on Thu, May 2, 2013 at 4:00 AM

I take great umbrage at the characterization of the doctor from Missoula as “courageous” for opening the door to overt assisted suicide and euthanasia (“aid in dying”) in our great state. I am the widow of a respected Great Falls surgeon, James E. Mungas. Against his expressed wishes and despite his pleas for intervention for the “palliative” overdose he was given, he was ignored and euthanized at a hospice. As a physician he understood the great responsibility and power over life the profession conferred; he also understood and witnessed the hubris that led to abuses of that power. He opposed physician-assisted suicide, worried about the potential for abuse in palliative care and understood the seduction of “ending one’s suffering.”

There is a body of law, a code of ethics and ever-evolving standards of care developed for medical practitioners to ensure the safety of patients and the public. Doctors have been sued and in some cases indicted for negligence, impairment (alcohol and drugs), depraved indifference and poor judgment. We hold them accountable as “captains of the ship” for the errors of others involved in a case. These are all good and necessary measures to protect the public and the profession.

Physician-assisted suicide is a serious threat to the public safety. There is such incredible potential for abuse of the elderly, the handicapped, the mentally impaired, the chronically ill or catastrophically injured. Consent is not protection enough—it can easily be coerced, co-opted, contrived or added after the fact. It becomes a perfect cover for negligence and/or malpractice. Most people do not have the financial nor emotional resources to seek re-dress in these situations.

Humans make mistakes. Doctors are human. Sometimes they are wrong about the outcomes. The bombing at the Boston Marathon wrought devastating and horrific life-changing injuries to healthy, able-bodied people. In the aftermath, many will be severely depressed and probably want to commit suicide. Do we just kill them because they might “consent”?

The statement by the doctor from Missoula that he is “proud” after assisting three of his patients’ suicides is disturbing. His certitude is alarming. The first jump off the diving board and the first incision are the hardest, but all things repeated become easier. Said doctor’s conduct would suggest that assisting suicide is a pretty easy thing to which one could become accustomed.


I urge the governor, the attorney general and all public officials to do whatever they can to protect the public from physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. This is not about compassion and choice.

Carol E. Mungas


Great Falls

It’s not legal

Posted on Thu, May 2, 2013 at 4:00 AM

I am the President of Montanans Against Assisted Suicide. I disagree with the quote of Emily Bentley that assisted suicide is legal under the Montana Supreme Court case, Baxter v. Montana. That case merely gives assisting doctors a potential defense to prosecution for homicide. The case offers no protection to non-doctors. The case gives no protection to anyone from being sued by angry family members who suddenly find their loved one dead from a lethal prescription.

One reason we oppose legalization is due to the abuse that is already occurring in Montana in which patients are pressured to give up on treatment and/or are given morphine to cause their deaths without their consent. A prominent example is Dr. James Mungas, who was effectively euthanized against his will. If the abuse cannot be controlled now, when assisted suicide and euthanasia are not legal, how will it be controlled if these practices are made legal?

Please contact us to join in the fight against assisted suicide. For more information, go to

Bradley Williams


Montanans Against Assisted Suicide


Unlikely reader

Posted on Thu, May 2, 2013 at 4:00 AM

Seeing as how Duane Ankney has a lesbian daughter and progressives shunned gays how does he get the label “unlikely”? (see “Unlikely ally,” April 18) He was never quoted as thinking that way. It seems to me that the “unlikely” adjective is a reflection of the bias that both your publication and you seem to share toward Republicans and Colstrip. That being said I normally gather and smokily burn every piece of your rag but the Colstrip headline got my attention.

No respect intended, in any way, ever.

Carl Farnsworth Jr.



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