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Should Peanuts Be Banned From Schools?

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Updated August 21, 2009

Question: Should Peanuts Be Banned From Schools?
Answer: Peanut allergy has become more common over the past many decades, and is the most common food allergy in school-aged children. Allergic reactions to peanuts can be severe, even potentially life threatening. Unfortunately, accidental exposure to peanuts is relatively common, particularly at school. For these reasons, parents of peanut-allergic children have advocated the idea of banning peanuts and peanut-containing foods in schools.

To date, there are no studies that have looked at the occurrence of peanut allergy reactions in schools that have banned peanuts compared to those that have not banned peanuts. While one might think that the reaction rate in so-called “peanut-free” schools would be lower than in schools that have not banned peanuts, this is not necessarily true. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce such a ban – and young children could not be held accountable for such a food ban.

Banning peanuts would then provide a false sense of security that could lead school officials to “let their guard down” in terms of being prepared to deal with severe allergic reactions as a result of peanut allergy. And, of course, banning peanuts could lead to the banning of other foods or activities – why not ban milk as well, which is a common food allergy? Or ban children who have cats at home, who might carry pet dander on their clothes? This is termed a “slippery-slope” argument: Once one food is banned for the safety and benefit of a few children, where do we stop? What about the rights of non-peanut allergic children to consume peanuts?

Many schools that don’t ban peanuts outright may separate food-allergic children during mealtime, such as having a “peanut-free table” at lunch. While this strategy is probably more effective than a peanut ban, the school needs to be prepared to deal with the idea that these children may be stigmatized or potentially bullied by non-food allergic children.

Learn more about peanut allergy.

Source:

Young MC, Munoz-Furlong A, Sicherer SH. Management of Food Allergies in Schools: A Perspective for Allergists. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009; 124:175-82.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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