"The increase in peanut allergy prevalence has lead to heightened public and health care professional awareness and demands from both for a rational plan for prevention. Initiation of "peanut-free" policies has become a common administrative solution to preventing full-blown anaphylactic reactions to peanut allergy, especially in schools and daycare settings. The interpretation and enforcement of "peanut-free" is not easy.
"Exposure to peanut allergen is difficult to control. Peanut butter sandwiches have been a staple of the typical school lunchroom. And, the school environment has maintained, as a primary function, the encouragement of group and social eating habits. Children bring from home their brown bag lunches, often holding a "PB & J" sandwich, and often pool resources into a collective meal. It is obvious that eliminating the threat of the peanut for an allergic child is rational prevention for food-related anaphylaxis since without exposure to the peanut, the reaction cannot occur. But, what about the cupcake made with sesame oil or the potato chip fried in peanut oil? How much protein triggers a response, and can such a response be triggered from ingestion, a kiss, a handshake or an airborne inhalation?
"Recently concern has been raised that peanut protein in the air will trigger a full-blown anaphylaxis since respiratory exposure can occur in the school setting as food proteins aerosolize into vapors during cooking at high temperatures, even in well-ventilated cafeterias. Elimination of peanut oils and food containing peanuts seems rational, yet with so many pre-packaged and processed foods being used for meal preparations, the likelihood of exposure is great.
"When airborne peanut protein exposure and reactions of children with known peanut allergies were explored, no allergic symptoms or anaphylaxis were observed when peanut allergic children were not aware of the airborne exposure. Interestingly, when aware of the exposure, symptoms of itchy eyes, sneezing, and runny nose resulted. In a research article by Perry, et al. (2004), no peanut allergen was detected in the air after subjects consumed peanut butter, shelled peanuts, and unshelled peanuts. Also reported was that no allergen remained on subjects’ hands after washing with liquid soap. Common cleaning agents effectively removed peanut allergen from tabletops, although dishwashing liquid left some residue on 4 out of 12 tables. Cutaneous reactions in the form of rash from exposure were consistent with the amount of skin exposure to the peanut protein. These exposures occurred from handshakes, kissing, and the wiping of eyes, nose or oral mucosa contaminated with peanut allergen. In conclusion, the chance of a life threatening anaphylactic reaction from airborne and/or touch exposure was insignificant. Life threatening exposures result most often through direct ingestion."
From "Peanut Allergy in the School Environment: Myths and Facts", http://www.netwellness.org/healthtopics/ch/peanut1.cfm
I find this subject fascinating. Peanut and tree nut allergies have definitely increased over the last 10 years, more than doubling from ’97 to ’02. But research also suggests that when the person doesn’t know about the presence of peanuts, there is no allergic reaction. I did notice that peanuts have returned to Lone Star Steakhouses (don’t ask, don’t ask). I could see a school going peanut-free in response to the threat of anaphylaxis, but a better solution should come from parents and the children themselves. But again, I’m not there, I’m probably missing something.
I’m amazed that the human race has managed to survive what with all the peanuts around. And how did we ever get by without bicycle helmets, front and side airbags, anti bacterial lotion carried everywhere, along with the ubiquitous bottle of water. People must have been dropping hither and yon from dehydration before the good folks at the water bottling corps stepped in to save us from ourselves.
Working in Special Education I’ve personally witnessed children fall off of swing sets. Some of them even cry and occasionaly there are abrasions. We need to ban those death traps now.
I do understand that allergies can be serious, but shouldn’t folks monitor themselves rather than wiping out one of childhoods primary food groups for everyone? Personally I’d rather see an emphasis on keeping firearms out of schools than policing sandwich spreads.
Vayo con Queso
Does anyone know if there are any food plants around that cater to peanut allergies and that allow people to tour their facility to learn about the allergy sensitive processing?
Our Elementary School just went peanut free and we are looking for a cool field trip to educate the kids.
Thanks for your help.
Are there Peanut Free Facilities to tour?
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