Sunday, February 10, 2013

Going nuts about nuts

Remember peanut butter sandwiches?  Once upon a time, school lunches meant a brown bag or colorful lunchbox with the requisite peanut butter sandwich, carrot sticks or fruit, juice box or thermos, and whatever dessert was most heavily advertised on TV. 
Sadly, our kids will never know the delight of the peanut butter sandwich in their school lunches.  Many schools, including the one where the Things have their Sunday program, are peanut-free.  My darling little Things go to their Sunday program with cream cheese sandwiches.
Now, I am aware that some people have peanut allergies so severe that even being in the same room with a peanut-based product will cause that person to go into anaphylactic shock and die.  But for the love of Planter's, how many people are like that?  And if peanut allergies are truly on the rise, how much of it is our fault?
Years ago, I knew someone who avoided peanuts during pregnancy.  Her rationale was that she didn't want her kids becoming allergic in utero.  Well, I took the opposite approach.  Not only did I eat peanuts and peanut butter while pregnant, I gave my kids peanut butter when they were toddlers.  Guess what?  Neither of them has a peanut allergy. 
In a way, I think the hysteria fuels the rise.  Our environments are so sterile that everything becomes an allergy.  By avoiding peanuts, we may be turning them into a pathogen through lack of exposure.


  1. This is some reason to believe that peanut phobia may have ironically increased the incidence of peanut allergies, since rates are lower in Israel where almost all babies are fed Bamba.

    However, since peanut allergies tend to be severe, precautions are warranted, esp. among young kids who are likely to share lunches. Once a child has a peanut allergy, repeated exposure makes it worse, not better.

    Even more important that eliminating peanut butter sandwiches, however, is ensuring that there is proper labelling to avoid hidden allergens. We had the fright of our lives when my niece had a reaction to chicken shnitzel in Israel last year - it hadn't occurred to us that it would be fried in peanut oil.

  2. Some of my kids have food allergies (including one kid with a peanut allergy), but I don't believe it's due to hysterical parenting: my father has had food allergies all his life, and in the 1920s there was no such thing as a peanut-free environment.

    My kids who don't have peanut allergies also got peanuts as toddlers. Once someone told me I shouldn't be giving peanuts to my 18 month old, but it turned out the guy was worried about choking, not allergies.

    FWIW, the public schools my kids attend don't have peanut restrictions, but the yeshivas do.

  3. I'm not saying all peanut allergies are caused by hysterics. However, we do need to end the witch-hunt. When we can't even distribute Kit-Kats because the factory that produces them also handles peanuts (although there are no actual peanuts in a Kit-Kat), I think we've gone too far.

  4. The "may contain" labelling is important, though. Accidental exposure is a risk. It's not unlike kosher labelling, where you don't buy the beans that were produced on the same line as the pork and beans.

    Children who have reactions most often eat something that they didn't realize had peanuts in it, such as a cookie or something with peanut oil.

    I would agree that restrictions for kids in older grades don't make that much sense, unless it is confirmed that a child has an actually allergy with an airborne or surface contact component. Otherwise, kids of a certain age can be taught to check labels and avoid sharing.

    A certain percentage of the population would have developed allergies in any case. There is some persuasive evidence, however, that increased avoidance of peanuts during pregnancy and up to age 3 has not only failed to prevent peanut allergies, but has led to an increase in the number of cases.

  5. The problem is: where do you stop?
    More kids suffer and die from bicycles than peanuts. Do we ban them too?
    More kids suffer and die from car accidents. Do we forbid them from riding in them?
    At some point we will idiot-proof society so much that our children will all become idiots since there will be no advantage to thinking.

  6. I, myself have discovered that I have gluten intolerance or celiac. About the same percentage or more needs to be eating gluten free as those who are allergic to peanuts, and yet, no one makes a big deal about it. People don't even know about gluten free. I *WAS* going into anaphylactic shock from eating it, but the doctors kept telling me insurance doesn't cover allergy testing and just um they don't know, you know. People keep telling me that even though their kid hasn't had peanut, they think their kid is allergic. I'm sorry, do we think it's a status symbol to be allergic to nuts? Kids get bullied for it in the public schools. It's not a freaking status symbol to hope for or something.

    There actually was an article in one of the frummy papers magazines about this and they also point out the Israel vs. US difference with this. Also, peanut allergies seem more common amongst Jews-especially Orthodox ones.

  7. I'm pretty sure schools only go peanut-free when one of the students has a severe peanut allergy.

    Anyway, have you ever tried almond butter? It's really good.


I'm not Monty Python. I hate SPAM.