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Monday, February 19, 2007

To Ban, Or Not To Ban

I came across a question at ABCPeanuts that stirred up some debate. I thought I would add my two cents. The site posed the following question:

What Is Peanut Free?
Peanut free means peanut safe. Does that mean an entire lunchroom must eliminate peanuts to be safe, or is a peanut free section sufficient? What is your opinion?

As is commonly the case with online peanut debates, posted comments ranged from practical to extreme. Here are two of my favourites:

Lilly (CA): I do not agree that we need to cater to the few that have this allergy. I do understand that it can be severe but we need to educate not ban. We live in a democratic society. All this banning of various items is becoming more of a dictatorship.

Kirsten (NY): I agree that we cannot become a dictatorship. If parents are so worried about the allergies they should home school their children and not go out in public.

I actually agree that a peanut ban does not solve the issue of overall food-related anaphylaxis but to compare a ban to the country sliding toward dictatorship is over the top.

I posted the following comment, directed in part toward these two posts but trying to discuss the overall situation:

It does not make sense to take such an extreme stance against a peanut ban. Claiming that it encroaches upon your participation in a democracy or that a child should be home-schooled due to peanut allergy is sensational and just serves to fan the flames of the debate. I will make the assumption that you would not want that for your child? That being said, I do not think that an outright peanut ban is absolutely necessary for a number of reasons … there are more reasonable solutions.

My blog ( chronicles our journey in dealing with our daughter’s peanut allergy. I take a moderate approach and one of my core concepts is that ‘It Takes A Village’ to manage severe food allergies. Peanut parents need the support of many people to ensure that their child is safe during the day and we need to support and educate those who help. While a peanut ban indeed helps my daughter avoid an anaphylactic reaction, there are several severe food allergens and banning them all is not feasible. Furthermore, a ban creates a false sense of safety and while it is helpful it does not make the school 100% peanut free.

Schools should have an emergency plan in place. They should also ensure that the contents of cafeteria food are clearly identified and that food-related activities are restricted in settings where allergic kids are involved.

Parents of other children should make sure that their children know not to share their food with other kids due to the risk of allergic reaction. It is also helpful when other parents ensure that allergic children are not left out of activities such as birthday parties just because they have an allergy. Parents of allergic children are eager to help in these situations and it is important that their kids be able to have normal social lives with other children.

Our role as ‘peanut parents’ is to make sure that the school is aware of our child’s peanut allergy and that they have a plan in place to deal with anaphylactic reactions. We also have to make sure that our daughter is fully aware of the allergy and all of the precautions that entails. We understand that sometimes we will have to make an extra effort to manage the allergy and we accept that.

It truly takes a village to manage these allergies, especially where children are involved. We all have a role.



Kerry said...

WOW... well said!

I'm glad you posted on my blog, as your blog is very interesting and informative for my 8-yr-old PA son. I agree with what you said. We are lucky on many counts: my son is not airborne allergic and his school nurse is FABULOUS at her job. Our school is peanut-free meaning only that anything they serve from the cafeteria is completely safe for my son. People can still bring peanut butter to school. There is currently not a peanut-free table, only because when it was offered I said no. But it was offered.

I do feel I have more choices because my son is not airborne-allergic; however, I don't think it would change more overall view. And that is this: he needs to learn to live in this world where peanuts exist. He knows to never take food from anyone. He knows how to find out if a food is safe. He washes his hands about 10 times a day. He knows what to do.

We don't put him in harm's way. We don't eat at Chinese restaurants, but he goes to birthday parties and baseball games (peanut shells). You can be anywhere and be at risk. We were at a farmer's market once with little ride-on trucks and we watched one child play on it while eating his peanut butter sandwich. Normally you wouldn't think this would be a nut hotspot! I nicely mentioned something to the mother who immediately starting cleaning it off the handle bars. She didn't undestand. (Although I wouldn't want my child to eat food and play on communal toys regardless of any food allergy!)

Sorry to post so long, but I do agree it "Takes a Village" both in understanding and acceptance. I have only encountered people who try to help, I guess I am lucky on that end too.

NoPeanuts said...

That is good to hear. People have been pretty good with us for the most part as well.

I think we share a lot of similarities in our approach to the allergy. I had blogged before about how common sense is required ... e.g. it is unreasonable to expect a peanut free dish in a Thai restaurant.

While we not letting the allergy run our lives, we are certainly not reckless about things either. A healthy degree of caution is important.

At this point our daughter is very young so it is a bit of a challenge since she does not understand what allergy means =)

The Cookbook Junkie said...

I get a little tired of the 'false sense of security' argument only because I don't think any parent who sends their peanut-allergic child to school feels secure, whether the school attempts to be peanut-free or not. It's just a way to lessen the risks. I can't imagine that any parent would neglect to have a plan in place, even in a peanut-free school.

While I'm not 100% pro peanut banning, looking at it from the school's perspective, I would think they would be more comfortable with some sort of ban or quarantine situation, only because if I were a teacher, I would not want to be faced with the decision to administer the epi if at all possible. While I am willing to allow my child to attend school around peanut products, that puts a lot more responsibility on the school staff. I think they have a right to decide how much risk they want to deal with on a daily basis.

The homeschool argument causes steam to come out of my ears. Putting a food product above the education and socialization of children is just so wrong. That person is basically saying that their child's right to carry a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school is more important than a peanut-allergic child's right to a public education. How can we teach our children empathy when the parents are so self-centered?

Some of these parents also need to take a basic government course. Even in a democracy, things can be banned. That hardly means we live in a dictatorship. I'd like to send these parents to live in an actual dictatorship so they would stop using the term so flippantly.

NoPeanuts said...

I agree with what you write here. I think that rather than parents having a complete sense of security due to a peanut ban, the risk might be more of complacency. I have noticed that complacency is a risk for parents in the interim between anaphylactic episodes and is fairly common. Sounds like you, like us, keep the allergy more at the front of your mind and your lifestyle.

As a peanut parent I would not go so far as to speak out against a ban - I agree that it would be somewhat helpful for our daughter.

I just also empathize with other parents who have children with other allergies. A peanut ban does not help them.

As for the homeschooling and democracy comments ... you have my thoughts on those :)