Are We Winning The War On Peanut Butter?Buzz Bishop
It was one of those mornings.
The snooze was hit for an extra five minutes and nothing in the routine seemed to fire in order. We were always five minutes behind. As I loaded my son into the car, his lunch wasn’t there. I thought my wife had made it. She thought I had made it. Nothing was ready.
Back in the day, a PB&J would be slapped together and stuffed in his bag. No longer. The rules for school lunches are tighter than the TSA (while at the same time being so nutritionally loose that our kids aren’t eating healthy).
Why? How did we get to declaring a War On Peanut Butter?
At some point in the past decade or so, a drastic change has happened. The number of children with peanut allergies doubled, then it tripled. Could video games be to blame? Well, a lack of Vitamin D is one of the things that can lead to a weakened immune system.
The other issue is our over-sensitivity to creating germ free environments for our kids. We’re so busy killing all the “bad” things, our kids have no chance to get exposed to them in small doses and build up the defenses.
You know how we keep telling parents to avoid feeding their kids foods that are common allergens until a certain age? It didn’t work. The rate of allergies kept rising, and in 2008, that way of thinking was dismissed. It’s okay to eat peanut butter when you’re pregnant, and when your kids are young. It really is.
In a study released in The Lancet, progress is being made by actually feeding kids who are allergic to peanuts, microamounts of the allergen. The authors warn not to try the practice at home, but hint that it may lead to treatment for a condition to which there is no cure.
We all know most reactions to nut allergies are no picnic. Serious complications can arise drastically affecting the child’s health. So we’re now treating nut exposure with the same hyper-vigilance we give to airport security.
My son’s schools are nut-free zones, and while it’s a pain, it’s understandable. Carefree 4- and 6-year-olds can’t comprehend the severity of the situation and can cross contaminate each other. The snack surveillance isn’t limited to nuts in the classroom, either.
An Ontario elementary school fundraiser had to be cancelled in the fall after one of the parents complained of her daughter’s allergy. The school was collecting peanut butter for a local food bank and the mother raised alarms when 200 jars of the stuff were being stored in the school. ¨¨The jars were sealed and being kept in the principal’s office, and were of very low risk to kids with allergies, but even that low risk brought out the fear.
“You can’t really live in a bubble,” said Neil MacKenzie, manager of the nutrition program at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, about the incident. “People with allergies certainly are aware, and they need to take the steps to avoid those allergies in all settings. You don’t want to set up an artificial perimeter for letting your guard down.”
It’s an interesting take. We want the kids to be safe, but is making them “too safe” teaching them to be “unsafe?” An increased sense of fear has actually decreased our ability to safely adjust.
It’s similar to a situation in Florida where a “6-year-old’s peanut allergy is so severe it is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.”
Students must wash their hands and rinse their mouths out before entering the classroom. It’s not just a ban on peanut products in the school, her class area became a clean room. Peanut-sniffing dogs were sent during spring break, while parents petitioned to have the girl home schooled because the rules were taking up valuable classroom time.
My wife found some leftover noodles and quickly tossed them in a plastic container, along with cucumbers, a veggie dog, and applesauce. My son still had a fast and easy nutritious lunch that would satisfy the school rules. Then something else happens when the lunch bell rings. The kids on the school milk program sit at their own tables, while the dairy allergy kids are kept off to the side.
Does you child have an allergy? What are your expectations of the school and other parents to make sure your child is safe?