Every time you complain about not being allowed to send certain foods to school, remember Marcus.

“I was thinking this is a bit of an overreaction.”

If you opened the Sydney Morning Herald today, you would have seen an eight-year-old boy smiling back at you. Marcus was climbing a tree with beautiful blue water in the background. You couldn’t help but smile back at him.

Marcus passed away two years ago. His father, John Terranova, spoke of the day he was called to his son’s after-school care facility because Marcus was having an asthma attack.

“I was thinking this is a bit of an overreaction. A paramedic said: ‘We are doing the best we can for him.’ I was sitting in a kid’s chair thinking they were giving him some help and didn’t want me to get too worried about it.”

But then he saw his son being wheeled out to an ambulance: “They were giving him CPR. I remember saying, ‘Please God, spare him’. He really was an angel, that boy. I live in the hope that there is a heaven and one day I’ll get to be with him again.”

Marcus wasn’t having an asthma attack. He was having an allergic reaction. A report later suggested it was a peanut, a cashew or a kiwi fruit that has triggered anaphylaxis.

John knew that Marcus had an allergy to peanuts, but had no idea he was at risk of anaphylaxis. “He was seeing a dermatologist but the connection between his eczema, asthma and the allergy was not investigated… The focus was always on the asthma. Somewhere along the line someone should have joined the dots.”

John doesn’t blame the after-school care centre, who he says was “fantastic” (an investigation also cleared them of responsibility of Marcus’s death). The bereaved father now campaigns to have parents have their children regularly tested for allergies, so that a treatment plan can be put in place.

It’s a gut-wrenching story, especially when you remember the splashy headline that was on the cover of that same paper that carried Marcus’s face today: BIRTHDAY BAN TAKES THE CAKE.

Today’s Sydney Morning Herald

It was a story about a child care centre in inner-Sydney that had banned birthday cakes. According to the centre, the cakes were banned because parents were worried about their children eating too much cake (which breached nutritional guidelines), and they were concerned that children with allergies felt excluded because they couldn’t eat the cake.

The response was somewhat predictable: cries of “political correctness gone mad!” “Oh-ho, here come the fun police” in the comment section of every place the story was run (including on Mamamia).

But the truth is: this cake ban has very little to do with political correctness.

It has even less to do with kids feeling sad because they can’t eat cake, or the dangers of eating too much sugar.

You just have to look at Marcus Terranova’s face to know what this is about.

Yes, it is a pain to have to police your own kid’s lunchbox when they go to school. Yes, it is embarrassing to receive a note from your child’s school to tell you that the lunch has been confiscated because it contained potential allergens. Yes, it is a bummer that they can’t eat cake at school.

But the fact is that your kid can come home and roll around in nuts. Your kid can come home and eat all the cake they want.

Your kid can come home.

Kids like Marcus don’t get to come home.

Every time it seems like too much to read the label of your muesli bars to see whether they contain nuts, remember Marcus’s face. Remember how his dad thought everyone was overreacting and sat quietly waiting for him to be treated for an asthma attack.

And remember that this doesn’t have to happen on your watch.