Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Peanut Allergy Story in the Oklahoman Newspaper: Here's What I Had to Say

Yesterday I was contacted regarding this news story in the Oklahoman newspaper that discussed the possible peanut ban in airlines.

It's interesting to see how this story plays where peanut crops and/or farming are of big concern. Obviously, those in this industry will have certain opinions. For instance, the beginning of the story references a very allergic little girl, whose dad (a farmer) opposes a peanut ban because it would hurt the peanut farming industry.

OK, I don't want farmers to lose money, but that's not the point. No one dealing with a peanut allergy wants farmers to suffer. But whether or not farmers will suffer economically has nothing to do with the safety of allergy sufferers being exposed in-flight and having severe allergic reactions in a plane. And I'll go out on a limb and say that peanuts are so prevalent in American society that I don't think an airline ban on peanuts is going to sink that industry. Take it from me--peanuts and tree nuts are everywhere, in so many foods it's almost mind-boggling.

An EpiPen and "awareness" (read the story) are great things--but they don't solve everything. Currently the only way to effectively manage a peanut allergy -- or any food allergy -- is through strict avoidance of the allergen.

So what does that have to do with economics or politics? Nothing. Why are we still making allergies about economics or politics when it's really about public health?

Economics are a big player in what will decide this issue. What about all the loss of ticket sales that the airlines currently suffer from those affected by allergies? Many people write to me and say they will refuse to fly because of the peanut issue.

And what about cigarette bans in bars, planes and restaurants? This probably hurt the tobacco farmers. Should cigarettes be allowed in these public places so that tobacco farmers don't suffer economic hardship? Apparently not, since this ban went into effect.

The bottom line is that, for whatever reason, economic hardship is the trump card being played by people who don't get -- or don't care -- that food allergies can cause instaneous, needless death.

With the rise in all kinds of food allergies, soon everyone will "know" someone with this condition and with that, I hope the compassion grows.


Jenny said...

Almost the second that I posted this blog entry, I read that DOT has backed off the proposed peanut ban idea.

Supposedly it wasn't "legal". Why was a cigarette ban "legal" then?

If airlines were smart they would just limit the amount of peanuts served and not make it a big deal. Allergy sufferers would flock to those airlines.

Sorry about the bad news.

RLR said...

We just got the all-clear on food allergies for our daughter, but I'd still support an airline that was peanut free over one that was not allergy-friendly!

Anonymous said...

This topic was on our local talk radio this afternoon. Very disappointing negative comments and attitude from the host and callers. Not surprising given one of my co-workers with a master's in Family Studies and a bachelor's in Home Ec was complaining about the unreasonable restrictions of having a nut allergic kid in a class.

Anonymous said...

It's appalling that public health isn't the most important driver in this. My daughter also has severe peanut and tree-nut allergies, and I will not let her fly. It's sad that this isn't more important considering the prevalence of the allergy.

Jenny said...

Thanks for the comments ladies.

Hi Wendy, Regarding the high school cooking teacher, I think having a student with a food allergy is a great learning tool. She could discuss cross-contact, nutrition and how to cook recipes for food allergic people.

In the case of nuts, some condiments and of course nuts themselves have to be avoided but believe me, you can cook without nuts many delicious and nutritious dishes.

What about devoting a portion of the Home Ec class to cooking without wheat or gluten one day, dairy the next, eggs, soy, nuts and so on. It would be really eye-opening to the students because they would have to pay attention to what goes into their food.

I think they are missing a great educational opportunity.