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  • Nutty Nanny State

    Posted by James R. Rummel on June 11th, 2010 (All posts by )

    I was born in 1964. The world seemed to be soaked in peanuts while I was growing up.

    Peanut butter was considered to be the perfect health food for children, as well as pregnant women who wanted to only eat wholesome foods while carrying their child. It was free from animal products, you see.

    A common snack were crackers slathered with the stuff. Desserts were sprinkled with crushed peanuts. Dry roasted peanuts were eaten at movie theaters. Peanuts roasted in the shell were passed out in order to keep the kids quiet, as most children would become fascinated by removing the husk in order to get at the nut inside. And, of course, peanut butter sandwiches were a quick, easy, and cheap lunch staple for just about every child growing up in the United States.

    Were allergies to peanuts to be found in the general population back then? I’m certain that you could scare up a few people that suffered from it in those dark long ago days, but it wasn’t as if there were a lot of children dying from eating an ice cream sundae with peanuts on it.

    According to this page, one percent of the population claims to suffer from peanut allergies. I wonder where they were back when I was growing up.

    Nowadays there are a lot of claims about the deadliness of peanut allergies. I’ve even heard that the smell alone can cause a severe reaction! Makes me wonder why this sort of hypersensitivity hasn’t died out by now, as it seems unlikely that anyone suffering from such an affliction could possibly survive for very long.

    I’m voicing my bemusement over this situation because I just heard that there are tentative plans to have the US government ban all peanuts on commercial flights.

    No more peanuts for you, you healthy bastard! Your inflight snack, which is nothing more than an ounce or two of roasted nuts, might cause the poor bastard sitting next to you to keel over from the odor!

    My private charity for 18 years was a free self defense course for violent crime survivors, and I specialized in the elderly and disabled. I don’t think anyone can credibly claim that I am unsympathetic to the plight of those suffering from disabilities.

    But banning peanuts because someone sitting somewhere on an entire airplane might be allergic? If there are people out there that are so hypersensitive to something so prevalent in our society, then they should be living inside of a bubble somewhere. If the problem is so deadly, their bodies so sensitive, then they could be passing someone in the street who ate a peanut butter sandwich and die in their tracks!

     

    10 Responses to “Nutty Nanny State”

    1. Bruce Hoult Says:

      It’s astounding really. Sometimes it seems that I don’t know anyone in their 20’s or younger who isn’t intolerant of at least one of peanuts, gluten, or lactose. When I got home from school the first thing I’d do would be to make a peanut butter sandwich on white bread and huge milkshake with full cream milk straight from the cow (ok, refrigerated for a few hours, but certainly not pasteurized).

      I’ve never seen a good explanation for what has changed. Are these allergies new? Are they imaginary? Did the environment change? Did people just suffer or die before?

      Baffling.

    2. Robert Schwartz Says:

      I would be more worried if any airlines served peanuts anymore.

    3. Douglas Says:

      The willingness of those running various study accepting those “self identified?” as being allergic?

      There is a lot of self diagnosis going on. My pops is something of a hypochondriac and he will latch onto any symptom to diagnose himself with the most horrible illness associated with that symptom.

      A sneeze? He’s got swine SARS, Swine Flu or West Nile, which ever is in vogue at the time.

      Dehydrated? Dysentary

      A mild chronic infection? Diabetes.

      Nose Bleed? Ebola.

      People have been taught that there are benefits to being victims and to be suffering, so they latch onto anything, and expand the paranoia, through self diagnosis.

      See The Miracle Worker Jenny McCarthy, or Elizabeth Hasselback who diagnosed herself on an effing Island far away from any glucose. She was never diagnosed, she did it herself.

    4. Andrew_M_Garland Says:

      James Rummel provides a link above to PeanutAllergy.com, which links to Abstract: Prevalence of peanut and tree nut allergy in the US determined by a random digit dial telephone survey.

      Their phone survey contacted 4374 households representing 12,032 individuals.
      164 individuals (1.4% of 4374) reported peanut allergies.
      1.6% of adults vs .6% of children under 18 reported peanut allergies.

      131 reported could describe their reactions, of which 13 were not allergic reactions, leaving 118.
      56 had never seen a doctor for their allergy, leaving 62.
      Just 8 people (7% of 118) carried self-injectable epinephrine to treat a severe reaction.

      33 people of the original 164 did not describe their allergic reaction. The study excluded 3 (10%), assuming that the same portion of these people did not have a true allergy.
      (Strange. I would exclude them all, as not having definite allergic symptoms.)

      The study concludes that 1.1% of the population (3 million) have peanut allergies, representing a significant health concern.

      But, notice that just 62 of 12,032 people described plausible allergic symptoms and had seen a doctor at some time. Just 8 people carried injectible epinephrine, indicating that they considered their reactions to be serious.

      We might wonder how many of those 8 would react to being near a peanut, rather than being prepared for accidentally eating something with peanuts or peanut oil in it.

      So, the actual figure for life-threatening peanut allergy is 8 people in 12,032 (6.6 per 10,000). An additional 54 people (45 per 10,000) suffer symptoms that brought them to a doctor at some time, but were not severe enough to bother carrying epinephrine, and I assume would not react to merely being near peanuts.

    5. Andrew_M_Garland Says:

      Correction above: 164 individuals (1.4% of 12,032) reported peanut allergies.

    6. Dan from Madison Says:

      If you did a double blind test of some sort on those who claim to have a peanut allergy (or maybe fed them some on the sly), I would guess that the number, the REAL number is probably one in one million, but what do I know. I agree with you James, I grew up in the 70’s and there was peanut butter everywhere.

      I recently was on a flight and they gave out peanuts and on the package it said “processed in a facility that handles peanuts” or something to that effect. Well, duh! I took a photo of it and will try to find that for us to laugh at.

      I went to the Brewers vs. Cubs game and the guy next to me (as well as myself) were eating raw peanuts out of the shell, nobody seemed to care. With so many people allergic to peanuts I am surprised they would even sell the evil things at the stadium!

    7. Paul Milenkovic Says:

      Round worms.

      Would you allow yourself to be infected with a therapeutic dose of round worm parasites? Would you do this to treat a nuisance illness such as hay fever? A life-threatening illness such as asthma? A life-ending illness such as MS? Could you overcome the “ewww” to get relief from any of these conditions?

      The theory goes that allergies are the part of the immune system that fights parasites gone amock. The reason round worms are supposed to help is that the round worm fights back with something that suppresses the host immune system, giving relief from the aforementioned auto-immune conditions. The reason we don’t have worms is because of flush toilets and the wearing of shoes, hence the allergies and auto-immune diseases.

    8. Shannon Love Says:

      We probably do see more allergies of all kinds these days. Allergies were relatively rare (or at least seldom reported) back in the pre-WWII era. The best guess as to why is the “hygiene” hypothesis which posits that our lack of internal parasites and infections makes our immune systems all loaded up but no nothing to shoot and thus more prone to attack the body itself. Allergies are far more rare in 3rd world countries than in the developed world.

      However, being allergic is definitely a fad right now. Now doubt part of this is owing to the political fear machine that has built up around the idea that the state has to protect you from absolutely everything in your environment. Another factor is the strange modern phenomena wherein everyone feels they have to be special in some way. Claiming you live a drama filled life of dodging lethal allergens and forcing everyone else around to pay attention to you in order not to expose you to allergens is a good way to make yourself feel special.

      If someone is seriously allergic, they carry an epipen. If not, then they don’t honestly think it a big deal.

    9. Sven Svenson Says:

      Why is anyone surprised by the hysteria? Remember the dangers of “second-hand” smoke? No truly scientific evidence but is now received wisdom to ban indoor smoking in entire states. Where were all the folks allergic to cigarette smoke before the push was made against tobacco products?

      I had a dear friend who was allergic to cats. He visited my home for several house before he saw our cat and upon seeing the cat instantly expressed symptoms of respiratory reaction. Funny how that works.

      Get used to it. More nanny statism regarding fats, carbohydrates and protien is sure to come.

    10. Brian Says:

      Speaking from someone who knows both adults and children who have a peanut allergy, I can attest that while there is some hysteria related to any health issue these days, there are serious reactions to those who are affected by it. The reason why airlines are debating banning peanuts on flights is that it isn’t the ingestion of peanut butter that can cause a reaction, but the oils from the peanuts themselves can cause it as well. While I am not a nutritionist, I have no doubt the diet and production of foods today have exacerbated the issue.