No more peanut butter in schools

No, seriously:

Like hundreds of other school districts across the country, Craneville Elementary is facing a student body that is more allergic to peanuts than ever before. “I have never seen anything like this,” says Bevan, a 25-year teaching veteran whose 489-student elementary school includes seven with peanut allergies this year. “These allergies came out of nowhere.” To protect vulnerable students, Craneville and many other schools are being forced to establish what educators are calling “peanut-free zones” — areas in the cafeteria and throughout the school where nut products are banned; some schools are going nut-free altogether.

According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, peanut allergies more than doubled between 1997 and 2002 in children under 5 and are now estimated to affect more than 1% of school age children. “It is like being in a minefield,” says Dr. Scott Sicherer, an associate professor of pediatrics, allergy and immunology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

Researchers don’t yet know why these allergies are blooming, but some experts think premature exposure to nut-based products in infancy may be to blame. Others believe the link is genetic. Still others cite the hygiene hypothesis — the idea that more and more parents are oversanitizing their kids with antibacterial agents, causing their immune systems to become more susceptible to allergies.

I – being brought up in a town/region/country where exposure to such things was more or less taken for granted (as were the attendant bumps, breaks and trips to the hospital) – go along with the hygiene hypothesis; MRSA is, of course, the most widely-known, to date, outcome. I’m sure super-strains of everything from Dengue to TB will scythe their way through our children, by and by. Grit is a good thing.

The former hypoethsis isn’t a bad one either, though: baby food is still baby food but, between the two towns in which I live (Bethlehem, Pa. and New York City), I see more than a sensible degree of parents pushing strollers containing toddlers eating shit that just isn’t food. The soy and high-fructose corn syrup in that stuff is probably doing God-knows-what to those kids.

There is, however, a social gradient to that sort of thing. Some decent social policy work and we might determing that social gradient, in the US, and perhaps even get a policy response. None of which will help kids whose lives are threatened by nuts, more-and-more. I’d also be interested to see someone track these kids and see how the percentage of those who mature out of the allergy changes (or not).

This article was also great for this line:

Whatever the cause, some parents — of nonallergic children — grouse that it’s unfair of the school to deprive healthy children of their favorite peanuty snacks. “Parents get very passionate and angry when their kids can’t bring peanut butter to school,” says Mike Tringale, director of external affairs at the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. “But you wouldn’t throw razor blades all over the gymnasium. For these allergic kids, putting peanut butter in the cafeteria is the same thing.”


I make a lot of strange analogies, when I teach, but I’m still amazed at the imagery that pops into some people’s minds (except Republican members of the Congress and Senate: those freaks are twisted, man).


19 comments so far

  1. robin on

    Instead of debating the “should peanuts be allowed in school” issue, we need to figure out “what can we serve the kids today, so everyone feels included!”.

    Suggestion: Divvies. We discovered these great peanut-free, tree nut-free, milk-free, and egg-free products last year. Their cookies and popcorns are major hits among everyone whether they have food allergies or not. My friend said she recently ordered their cupcakes (yes! I can have cupcakes delivered so I don’t have to bake again!) and they are delicious.

    Divvies is worth remembering and telling your friends about! You can order

  2. Kathy on

    …. she wrote, while eating her peanut butter Balance Bar. I’m on the side of the fence that suspects kids’ immune systems are messed up because they don’t get a healthy workout. By workout, I mean swimming in dirt and germs. Antibacterial soap is poison in a bottle.

  3. zooeygoethe on

    Quite so. I’m always suprised at the difference in the attention given here, vs. the UK, to nosocomial MRSA

    Despite the work put in by the CDC,

    to identify the consequences (e.g., “MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, caused more than 94,000 life-threatening infections and nearly 19,000 deaths in the United States in 2005, most of them connected with healthcare settings.”)

    Anti-bacterial soap, trips to the GP for anti-biotics for every minor bout of hypochondria. When super-everything, from TB to Polio, takes me out, I hope it takes a lot of these people first. Starting with the parents who won’t get their kids triple-jabbed.

  4. Anonymous on


  5. kristylovespeanuts! on

    I do not thuink peanuts should be banned from schools!!!!!! nock it off stupid government

    p.s. me and my friends are doing protests against banning peanuts from schools!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111

    I LOVE PEANUTS!!!!!!

  6. Peggy on

    As a grandmother of a child allergic to peanuts, I can’t believe that there is a controversy at all. I have a friend who’s daughter died of anaphylaxis after taking one bite of a candied apple at a fair; there were no peanuts on it, but had been contaminated by peanuts. She spit it out when she tasted peanuts, but it was too late; 15 minutes later she was dead…She was nine. I read a news paper article recently about a young teen who kissed a boy who had eaten peanuts hours before…she died from that kiss. My granddaughter was in pre-school when the class was doing a project with peanut butter; she told the “teacher” she could not do the project because she was allergic…the teacher took her hand and put it in the peanut butter. She went into Anaphylaxis within minutes. Luckily she had an epipen at the school (which protects them for less than 10 minutes) or she would also be dead. This was a professional, someone who should have known about peanut allergies. Should it be taken out of schools? Absolutely. And yes, in elementary, middle and high school; kids don’t think about what others kids have done, like someone you are going to kiss having eaten peanuts earlier. I am a staunch republican, but if McCain-Palin are against removing Peanuts/Peanut Butter from schools (and I will research this issue), I will not be voting Republican. The thought that my granddaughter could die within minutes of touching peanuts is extremely scary. I don’t want to hear of ANY child dying or putting the parents and grandparents through that pain because we can’t keep peanut butter out of schools. We keep God out…We keep prayer out…I would think protecting our children from death would be a no brainer.

  7. Russ on

    It’s horrible that allergies like this exist. It’s horrible. There’s no other way to put it. Can I ask a question, though? What makes you think if you take peanut butter out of schools, your allergic child will be any safer? Will you petition the government to ban peanuts/tree nuts and all the products associated with them altogether? You can’t control the world, so stop trying it. Educate your children so that they avoid the things that are dangerous. That’s pretty much a good general rule of thumb! Prepare them in the event they contact peanuts. This state we’ve evolved to is creating a coddled, weak-minded generation that will soon be taking over. Think about that for a moment if you will. A generation of win-a-trophy-for-merely-participating, mom-and-dad-protect-me-from-everything, if-you-don’t-like-it-change-everyone-else kids are going to be our leaders. I do not wish for that day, but it’s coming. I’m raising my kids (yes I have 3) to be self-sufficient, logical, smart and above all, realistic. My problem isn’t your problem, so don’t make yours mine.

  8. Russ on

    I want to retract most of my previous post. I’ve done some more reading. Actually, what keyed me off and provoked me was a letter that came home with my 6 year old son from school today. You guessed it: “Parents: No more peanut butter or peanut products in bag lunches or snacks.” I guess my gut reaction is that this seems to happen a lot. People don’t like what you say, so say something else. It’s called being ‘politically correct’. Our overly sensitive society is what’s really bothering me here, not so much the peanut issue. Ever time someone doesn’t like something, we change the world so they feel safer or more comfortable. What ever happened to ‘deal with it’ ? I still believe we are churning out weaklings and idiots as children and our future is still bleak. But I am becoming more anti-peanut in at least grades K-5. By middle school and high school, if they don’t understand by then that they can die at any moment and to be ridiculously careful (and have come to terms that that is their life), they never will be and Darwin will soon take care of them.

    • Tboz on


  9. Ricka on

    I got upset when my husband came home telling me that my son could no longer be allowed to bring peanut butter sandwiches to school because of another child’s allergies. My son, who is 4 and in pre-k, won’t eat anything but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, along with just a few other things. There have been many days that he will skip lunch because he won’t eat what the school serves him.

    I did a bit of research, and I agree with another blogger, it is okay to ban peanutbutter in schools pre-k thru Elementary, but beyond that it would be very difficult to control what the kids are bringing into the schools once they become more independant. Hopefully by age 12 (or hopefully younger) children with these types of allergies will know how to be very contious of thier serounding, and what they can and can not be exposed to.

    Now I am trying to figure out what I can pack in my son’s lunch to make sure that he doesn’t go hungry on the days that the school provides food that he will not eat. I know very well that they are not going to cater to my child’s finiky appetite. Isn’t that ironic.

    • Anonymous on

      YOur son isn’t going to die from his finicky appetite.

  10. Stephanie on

    For Ricka, I understand your view. I have a very picky eater for a son and peanut butter happens to be one of my favorite foods. (We have switched to Soy Butter (found at most grocery stores) it tastes similar. )However, I have a son who is almost 2 and can be killed within minutes of touching any peanut item. This was discovered when his daycare fed him peanut butter at 11 months old. Needless to say he almost died, now I am paranoid everyday we leave the house. And for those of you who say just be careful. Well, it is not that easy. If a person were to come into contact via touching peanuts or peanut butter whether or not you can see it on the hand and then touch a table and then my son were to go and touch the same table later on in the same spot he would go into the full anaphalactic shock with his throat closing in a few minutes. So it is not just something you can look out for and make sure you don’t contact it. Furthermore if he were in school and this were to happen on the playground and nobody saw him he wouldn’t be able to save his own life because his body shuts down so quickly where he can’t sit or even hold his head up. I just want ya’ll to think about this the next time you get upset for someone with a food allergy ruining your kids fun because I personally think it is more important to keep these kids alive.

    • Tboz on

      Clearly it is more than our concern with the ban ruining our children’s “FUN”!
      My son does not eat his lunch at school as after attempting ALL other options he only likes pb. He is FIVE and last year LOST nearly 10lbs over the school year for the chance that some other child might have allergies!!

      Hardly fun… that kind of weightloss on a small child is also DEADLY…perhaps having these allergic children eat elsewhere with a older student or EA…or in major populations go to another school where children who have these serious allergies are at the safest and my child can be healthy and grow as he RIGHTFULLY should!

      • Anonymous on

        What does he eat for dinner? Put it in a thermos.

  11. Mike on

    Recent research suggests that for the vast majority of even severe sufferers, simply touching a peanut-contaminated surface or cannot cause anaphylaxis (but can cause hives) unless the face is touched.

    Stephanie’s son will eventually have to accept that he must be incredibly careful. He must not sit at the table without having it wiped down first. He must avoid shared playground equipment.

    I hope Stephanie will not let him touch any uncertain surface without having it wiped down.

  12. Amy on

    I really feel for parents who have children who are allergic to peanuts. Honestly, I don’t know what I would do. However, that being said, the parents in our school who have children who have allergies go further towards educating their own children, even in the elementary grades, as well as their classmates. They ask that simple procedures be put into place such as keeping lunch boxes separate, having a peanut free table, hand washing procedures, and what to do in an emergency situation. What they don’t do is try to legislate and ban items from school. Because of their approach to educate the children in the classrooms this issue does not become combative, but supportive. When you start telling people what they can and cannot do with their child, especially when it means denying them the right to eat healthy foods like peanut butter, there is going to be fall out. I tried the soy butter. My children hate it. I hate it quite honestly. But with the right education my children can eat what they want, and still make sure that other children are protected as well. Not to mention that soy, which is something people commonly replace peanut butter with is a major allergen as well. So what happens when your child faces a peanut allergy and mine has a soy allergy? What will our children then eat?

    • Lorri Couch-Hart on

      So, it’s not o.k. to tell people that they cannot eat peanut butter in a close environment with a severely allergic child, but it’s o.k. to be relaxed about kids dying from anaphylaxis in school, huh???? have you ever seen anyone go through anaphylaxis?? there is no way they can help themselves. Their mouths swell, their windpipes swell, they choke, cannot breathe. They collapse, their blood pressure and pulse drop; but no, it’s still o.k. for kids to eat peanut butter in school. Yes, I’m an angry parent with two very allergic children. If taking peanuts away from all kids in elementary is enough to save even one child, then that little sacrifice is well worth it!!!

    • Tboz on

      Exactly my brother was deathly allergic to milk…same thing…no milk, no pb, no wheat, no soy in schools, no baterial cultures….cheese, yogurt, puddings, …its coming.

      Buying NO PEANUT product food for my five NON ALLERGIC children who all go to school that currently DO NOT EVEN have allergic students has risen my food bill from 1600$ a month to 2200$ as all these products are much more expensive than the regular more favored foods/snacks.

      The lifestyle we work hard for is compromised because of the ridiculous ban…no trips, fun out, no luxuries to cover the added expense of alternative pb/nut products… how is that right?

      There are SO many other effective solutions that would be making every other child, family, parent have to sacrifice for having a child with pb allergies in the area….

  13. Babsy on

    This is a super important issue that will surface again and again. There’s an article entitled “Why your child can’t bring peanut butter to school (and what to do about it)” that does a great job of framing the issue and actually includes a strategy for how to deal with it:

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