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Peanut Butter Panic

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Poor peanut butter. It has taken such a beating over the years.

girl eating peanut butter sandwhich

Jennifer Ginsberg: The fear of peanut allergies is so widespread that nearly all schools have become "Peanut Free Zones." I actually remember a time when I could bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school. Amazingly, I never witnessed the spontaneous death of another child from the mere scent of my sandwich.

Now we are told that if we pack an item in our child's lunchbox that not only contains peanuts, but any nuts, and anything that has been produced in a facility that processes peanuts, we may put another child into anaphylactic shock.

At my stepdaughter's private school, we were sent notes home on a weekly basis about this very topic. One note went so far as to threaten that even if our child had peanut butter for breakfast, the allergic child could still smell trace amounts on her hands and have a horrible reaction. Peanut butter is now contraband, and we are required to eliminate it entirely from our child's life because your child might have the 1 in 10,000 chance of a peanut allergy.

Strangely, "Peanut Butter Panic" is an affliction unique to upper-class Americans. When I told a group of moms in my toddler's play group that she loves peanut butter and eats delicious spoonfuls of it on a daily basis, the gasps were palpable. "But ... I didn't even think you were allowed to do that!" one mom exclaimed, clearly alarmed, as if I had given my daughter a pot brownie. The general consensus in the room was that peanut butter was dangerous, something to be avoided for the first three years of life, if not forever.

Do you ever hear about children in third-world countries having peanut allergies? Not only are these allergies nonexistent in most parts of the world, peanuts actually save the lives of starving children in Africa! A therapeutic feeding program called Project Peanut Butter has been developed by the leading authority on severe child malnutrition, Dr. Manary. Endorsed by the World Health Organization, Project Peanut Butter recognizes the amazing nutritional value of the peanut and uses it to make a formula for starving children which offers a 95 percent recovery rate.

Is it possible that the poor peanut has become a scapegoat for all of the anxieties associated with parenthood? The world can be a frightening place, and perhaps it is easier to launch a war on peanut butter than it is to bravely face the real issues which threaten our children. According to some doctors, 25 percent of parents believe their children have a serious allergy, while in actuality only 4 percent do. Roughly, the same number of Americans die each year from lightning striking them as from peanut allergies. Perhaps we should make our schools "Lightning Free Zones" as well!

It is time to lay off the poor peanut. If you happen to be the parent of a child with a legitimate peanut allergy, please do not demand that all nuts be removed from my child's life. Teaching your child that the entire world needs to accommodate him is not a realistic life lesson. It is your job to keep your child safe until they are able to do so themselves.

Peanuts are a healthy and delicious food for the overwhelming majority of children, not to mention a lifesaver for many. Let's start to give the peanut the respect it is due!

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