Beware of the peanut

Our little family has the kindest friends. For the past eight years, they have dutifully read labels and planned special menus


Our little family has the kindest friends. For the past eight years, they have dutifully read labels and planned special menus when inviting us over for lunch or dinner. Our eight-year-old has an anaphylatic peanut allergy, which has become so common that we mostly accept it without question. Last night at a shared family dinner, a longtime family friend commented how hard it was for her to find bread that did not “contain traces of peanuts.” How incredible that she would show us this level of thoughtfulness, yet how ridiculous that she would have to.

Recently I dropped off my eight-year-old’s renewed epi-pen collection at the office of our school. On the shelf, I counted six large brown envelopes filled with epi-pens. Chatting with friends who attend a variety of other schools in our area, they all confirmed that their schools are peanut free. Peanut allergy is ubiquitous; non-peanut-allergic families pack their compliant lunches, peanut-allergy families take-for-granted this courtesy.

Sheltered by our own wonderful community, I was shocked when I tried to pack our little family off to Disneyland on an American airline this fall. The airline had advertised itself as not serving snacks, so I purchased the reduced-fare tickets with enthusiasm and was looking forward to our trip. A week before our scheduled departure, I realized, buried in the deepest part of their website, that they served peanut M&Ms. I politely requested our money back, not wanting to cause an anaphylatic scene one-mile-high. I was naive, I could not have predicted that society does not care about little children with peanut allergy. I was told, “Children with peanut allergy should just stay home.” “You are making this up to get attention.” “We love peanuts, how dare you ask us to give them up.” We are not alone: recently in Guelph, a radio show said a little Grade 1 girl who was requesting an anaphylatic-free classroom, should just “eat peanuts and die to strengthen the human race.”

Once upon a time, a Nobel-prize winning physician named Dr. Charles Richet easily created food anaphylaxis in animals through injections. (In fact he created the term “anaphylaxis.”) It was perfectly delightful, shoot them full of a food ingredient one day, wait a few weeks, feed them that same item, and then watch them die. It was easy. And the body is smart: keep disease, bacteria, and food protein out of the blood.

In Japan in the early 1990s, they created Jello allergy through the infant DTaP vaccine. However, they worked quickly and efficiently to fix this, and Jello allergy has gone away.

Peanut oil is a well-documented ingredient in the pharmaceutical industry. Cheap and plentiful, it slows down the release of medicines in our bodies. But with pharmaceutical companies hiding behind proprietary rights and ambiguous labeling, how can anyone be sure how much peanut protein is floating around in children’s medications?

In spring 2013, the Canadian Parliament passed Anaphylaxis Motion 230. With seven per cent of the population being anaphylatic, something had to be done. Promising more money for research and improved quality of life, anaphylatic families are encouraged to present their needs to their MPs.

The pro-vaccine, industry website Fierce Vaccines documents that vaccines now have the largest profit margin in the biotech industry. And yet, as discussed in the Globe and Mail, vaccine companies are free from any threat of lawsuit. Individual injury in the name of the greater good leaves a person with no compensation or legal recourse in Canada.

Food allergy can happen to anyone. Studies on whether or not to eat peanuts while pregnant, when to introduce peanuts in the diet, and genetics have gone round and round twice in these eight years of living with peanut allergy. Yet, we know people have eaten peanuts for hundreds of years with no problems.

Currently peanut allergy reigns supreme in childhood circles because children get the most shots (including day-of-birth Vitamin K injections). But with more and more vaccines being prescribed for adults too (like shingles and flu), a nasty food allergy could be in anyone’s future.

And, as Heather Fraser predicted in her book The Peanut Allergy Epidemic, where Western-style pharmaceuticals go, peanut allergy follows. Missionary friends in West Africa recently commented how they are suddenly seeing peanut allergy there.

We need safer injectable medicines and vaccines, and pharmaceutical companies do have the money to produce them. Canadian government, we need stronger health policies that ensure pharmaceuticals are free from favourite foods. We need to remove peanut oil from our children’s medicines and vaccines.

Chantelle Olsson-Chang, Aldergrove

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