From the peanut gallery

From the peanut gallery

There was an article in the local newspaper the other day about a middle school (grades 6-8) that has completely banned all peanut products from the building. No PB&J, not even hard taco shells (made with peanut oil). One of the students has such a severe peanut allergy that even the strong aroma of peanuts can send him into anaphylactic shock. (I think that’s what it’s called.)

I’m 34 years old. I cannot remember a single instance of a kid, when I was growing up, who was allergic to peanuts. Suddenly they’re everywhere. Airlines can’t even serve nuts on the planes any more. Where did they all come from? Is this a new disease or an old one that was never diagnosed? Did mothers begin consuming something a generation ago that started causing a birth defect? Or is it a case of over-diagnosis like ADD, where doctors are seeing things that aren’t there?

I’m genuinely curious because it’s too weird. I can’t imagine growing up and not having PB&J at school lunch.

Of course, there are also the issues of the rights of the majority versus the rights of the minority. Peanuts butter isn’t the most important thing in the world, but does one child’s right to go to school and not have his life threatened by something only he is allergic to mean that he must go to a public school where the other kids’ privilege of eating what they want is curtailed? Or should he be privately tutored or sent to a private school because of his disability? When is mainstreaming too much?

Similarly, what about people with odor allergies? I hear about offices where the workers are told not to wear cologne or perfume because one of the other workers may (or may not) have an allergy. What if it extended to deodorant? artificial fabrics? Is it just to require everyone else to be stinky in their cotton and wool for the sake of one person’s problem?

I don’t know the answers; I’m just asking the questions, but it’s something I think society will have to deal with eventually. Or we could have a whole generation of kids who won’t know the joy of a peanut butter & jelly sandwich with a big smoosh in the side because they tossed their apple into the lunch bag on top of it. Mmmmm.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli