By Sean V. Lehosit
I made a late night grocery run, after realizing I exhausted my supply of extra crunchy peanut butter. While perusing the food aisle I found myself sneering at a product you’d have never seen just a few years ago – nut free peanut butter.
Peanuts have become the target of moms across the country. The Center for Disease Control reported four in every 100 children have food allergy, and the most common is attributed to nuts. The number of kids seeing doctors about alleged food allergy increased 50 percent over a decade.
Peanut and tree nut allergies are a serious matter. There are more than 200,000 emergency room visits per year in result allergic reactions. Medical professionals are mystified as to why the numbers are rising at such a rapid speed. The cynic in me wonders if all these cases are true allergic reactions, or just reactionary parents responding to PTA newsletters.
In the last year I’ve had about six friends inform me they’re allergic to gluten. None have been diagnosed by a professional, though. When asked why, they respond, because when they cut out gluten they felt better. Funny, they never felt ill until they read about the growing population of gluten-intolerant people via a Facebook link.
Schools are banning peanut products from fear of oil contact on door knobs and desks, even if a child never gets their hands on a Milky Way. This is a reasonable action, although I believe it should be paired with reinforcing habits of hygiene, like washing hands and keeping fingers out of mouths. Peanut oil isn’t the only harmful byproduct found on surface areas – there’s still saliva, feces and viruses.
I worry fear of peanuts allergies will assign negative stigmas to the food, itself. A friend attempted to chastise me for my choice in Halloween candy I’m passing out this year. I thought buying Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups would make me the hit of the night. But I was told my decision to pass out peanut butter products was irresponsible and dangerous.
Will the day arrive I’ll need to eat my peanut butter cups 30-feet from a building, squeezes between a group of smokers? Will my spam folder be filled with suspicious emails offering me walnuts from Canada? What are airliners going to offer on a short flight?
Let’s keep children out of the emergency room, but let’s not get nuts.