Furious reaction to balanced article in Canadian journal...

Michelle Berriedale-Johnson comments on the furore ...

The allergy community in Canada is currently incandescent over an article by Patricia Pearson in the Chatelaine magazine (since removed) which suggests that we are overreacting to peanut allergy and that more Canadians (well, Ontarians) were killed by lightening strikes between 1986 and 2000 than died from peanut anaphylaxis.

Patricia Pearson is not the first to suggest that our approach is unbalanced. Professor Nicholas Christakis from Harvard Medical School recently unleashed a torrent of abuse on his head by suggesting that we were in danger of suffering from mass hysteria over peanut allergy.

Neither Patricia Pearson nor Professor Christakis is in any way downgrading the seriousness of allergy, the potential risk to life that it presents or the concern that the parents of allergic children have for those children's welfare. They are merely attempting to put some perspective into the discussion. The risk of peanut anaphylaxis is only one of the many risks that children, allergic and non allergic, face in life and if they are to survive them, they need to learn to deal with them not always to be protected from them.

Amongst the many furiously fuming responses to the article on the Chatelaine's website (one does wonder how many of them had actually read the article in full) is the following which does suggest that there may be another way...

Very well written article! I am glad that someone has finally spoken out!

I grew up many years ago in the public school system. I had severe allergies to many foods including peanuts. My throat would swell shut if I ate them. The people that have made comments so far seem to think that children are stupid and don't know what they can and cannot eat. I knew by kindergarten that I was not to eat nobody's lunch but mine. There was never a ban on any food product. Teach your children. What happens if they go somewhere when they get older and have constantly been sheltered from learning about prevention in everyday life? Have you even considered this?
In today's economy peanut butter would be a great relief for those parents who have large families and want to feed them healthy, yet economical.
My godson was extremely allergic to wheat to the point that he once had a seizure. His mother taught him what he should not eat. She packed and still packs lunches for him. Before he could talk he would even shake his head if someone tried to give him something that he knew would make his "tummy hurt" (a term he used as he got older).
Not once did anyone ever BAN wheat products from schools. If your child is that sensitive to a certain food product then maybe you need to find an alternative, rather than make everyone else in the world suffer.
Where will it end! Why should people with peanut allergies be so special. I talk from a person's view that grew up with many, many food allergies, including peanuts. I outgrew most, but am still anaphylactic to Brazil nuts. Does that mean that Brazil Nuts should be banned?
Should there be better education about food allergies in the schools? You bet! Make all the children aware how serious allergies can be, what the signs of an allergic reaction are. Do we really need to make the children that are dealing with this allergy have to deal with being in the spotlight even more? That it is their fault that I can not bring my favorite peanut butter sandwich. I just think that education would go a lot further than banning an economical, healthy and delicious food from everyday life.

First published October 2009

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