I've been waiting to see something along these lines for quite some time now. In the midst of this feisty election year, PeanutAllergy.com partnered with OpposingViews.com to run a poll. Should peanuts be banned from schools? While the breadth of the number of people polled is a relatively small sample, the results might be surprising to some.
_With the ‘No’ vote totaling 76.6%, most of those who responded are opposed to banning peanuts in school. This is interesting for a few reasons. First, food allergies in general but nut allergies in particular, have been trending sharply upward in recent years. In part because of better awareness surrounding food allergies, the number of cases of peanut allergies has been on the rise. Secondly, as more school districts and states across the nation are developing plans to keep Epi-Pens on hand, there has been a response to the growing number of severe allergic reaction cases by administrators, parents and legislators.
_This is a sticky situation (sorry for the poor peanut butter pun) for several reasons. Peanuts have been a staple in the American diet for a very long time. On average, a typical American consumes over 3 lbs. of peanuts every year. Now this doesn't mean we're all sitting around at the ballpark, the local Five Guys, your nearest steakhouse or on airplanes just munching away. Peanut oil and the ever-favorite peanut butter is consumed and used in a variety of foods and for food preparation across the nation. Peanuts have traditionally been a low cost source of nutrients and protein, far cheaper than meat.
_On the other side are the health risks for those who are allergic. Part of what makes the increase in food allergies so alarming is how severe they can be. Why have schools and state legislatures been pushing to enact laws that require schools to carry auto-injectors? Fatalities. Though the number of food allergy related deaths each year is small, typically a couple hundred, they are alarming, in large part because they are so preventable. And, for parents of children with severe food allergies, this no small matter, so much so that some parents have turned to home schooling or specially trained dogs to help their child avoid food they're allergic to.
_There are also other issues in play with this debate, cost, effectiveness, and even concerns regarding civil liberties. The issue is a difficult one, but one where opinions can be very sharp and not in short supply. So where do you stand? Should they be banned in schools for allergy reasons? If not, what should schools and others do to help prevent these preventable deaths?
_Author: Kevin Gilmore