Sunday, May 19, 2013

Peanut Free Zones are NOT "Safe"

Curious recent internet event in my life: I was labeled as "Non-Empathetic," and "A Troll." by two allergy bloggers, The Allergista, and "The Crunchy Cook."  The title of this blog post explains it all, I stand by my posts, and here is my scientific and reasonable response:

There are some delusional beliefs about peanut allergy that have been propagating like wildfire online and on the local news.  The people who are promoting these hysterical beliefs are encouraging ridiculous things that could kill people with severe allergies like me.

I consider myself to have a great deal of empathy.  I have extremely severe peanut allergy and I have personally been forcibly taken off an airplane by airport security due to my allergy.  I know how it feels to be singled out and forced out of your airplane seat by 5 burly airport security dudes.  I know how it feels to have everybody in an airplane staring at you and thinking you are a terrorist when you have allergies that are not your fault.

I have a ton of empathy.  

What I do not have empathy for is people with my deadly peanut allergy who insist that "the smell of peanut butter" or "Someone eating a butterfinger next to you" will cause an anaphylactic reaction, like the blogger known as "The Crunchy Cook."

I  feel it is my duty as a deadly peanut allergy sufferer and science enthusiast to combat these delusional beliefs about peanut allergy.  Because they cause people, reacting out of fear and hysteria, to establish "peanut free zones."  And peanut free zones kill more people than they save.

Establishing "peanut free zones" do not work to keep people (over 8 years old who know not to put their hands in their mouth) safe.  My allergy doctor-(an expert in peanut allergy, he has been given a grant from NIH to study it) told me that peanut free zones kill more people than they protect.  Because, he told me, a peanut allergy (PA) sufferer lets their guard down, someone brings in cross-contaminated food, PA person doesn't give the third degree about where the food was made or where it came from, PA person assumes food is safe because they are in the "safe" zone, PA person eats food, PA person dies. He told me that he has heard of countless PA patients who have died in "peanut free zones." 

Peanut free zones do not work.  Peanut free zones kill people.

Yeah, it's nice to feel safe.  But when you live with peanut allergy, outside of your home, you are never ever safe.

Even at my church, a supposed "peanut & sesame free zone," 99 % of the pastries served are "made in a facility that manufactures peanuts."  Had I not been made aware by my doctor  (Thanks for saving my life a lot, you are really great!) that "peanut free zones" are not safe and extremely dangerous, I would have probably eaten the puffy delicious-looking butter croissant without checking the ingredient label, gone into anaphylactic shock and died. 

I am grateful to my doctor for giving me the cold hard facts (he is the one who told me that the smell of peanut butter will not cause a reaction) and encouraged me to look into the scientific research for myself.  I realize the precious value of the information he gave me because it has saved my life.  I want to share this information with other people.  I never again want to read about, or listen to my doctor telling me about another PA person dying in a 'peanut free zone.'  

I am doing this to save people's lives!  

Thank you  "The Allergista" for mentioning my commentary to "Crunchy Cook" on your blog.  The problem that I had with the Crunchy Cook's post is that she said that she would go into anaphylaxis from "The smell of peanuts."  The molecules in the air that give the peanut it's smell are NOT the same molecules that theoretically could go airborne and cause a reaction in dusty peanut flour, or a can of peanut oil cooking spray.  Double blinded placebo controlled studies conducted in 2003 by Sicherer et al. found that the smell of peanuts from as close as one foot away did not cause a reaction.  

I do appreciate your scientific mind and your inquiry into the  plausibility of the crunchy cook's claims.  However, as you give her the benefit of doubt, I stand by my posts, all of which have been deleted by the Crunchy Cook.  People eating Butterfingers, reeses, PB & J, etc, do not create the causes and conditions that the two 'reputable' web sites write about for inhalation of peanut dust found in peanut flour, people shelling peanuts, or a maniac spraying peanut oil spray that the LiveStrong article mentions that you cited. (LiveStrong.. That is the most reputable source about inhalation peanut reactions on the internet? LiveStrong isn't very reputable IMHO..)

In retrospect, I do not mean to have so much attitude.  I think The Allergista has a great blog, and gives accurate reasonable information.  Her nice looking and easy to navigate blog is an excellent resource to raise awareness and get information about food allergies.  She is obviously a wonderful person overcoming an incredible disability (allergies are disabilities) with humor, great writing, and fabulous fashion sense.  So the attitude of these sentences and tone I regret..

My question is why The Allergista's blog post didn't include the most reputable source: Wikipedia?  The routes of exposure section exposes the myth of the deadly peanut smell, here is the link:

In The Peanut Allergy Answer Book, Harvard pediatrician Michael Young characterizes this secondary contact risk to allergic individuals as rare and limited to minor symptoms.[22] Some reactions have been noted to be psychogenic in nature, the result of conditioning and belief rather than a true chemical reaction. Blinded, placebo-controlled studies by Sicherer et al. were unable to produce any reactions using the odor of peanut butter or its mere proximity.[22]


  1. Can I just say I love this. Thank you. I had a brother with a severe peanut allergy. As a child of the 80s he did not grow up in peanut free zones. Did he die? No. He is alive and well. He grew up in a household that had peanut butter. You know how? He was suspicious and taught be suspicious about every single darn thing that went into his mouth. He had an incredible sense of intuition about when something didn't seem right. I have become so tired of being asked not to eat a peanut product because someone could die. It is physically impossible to die without ingesting the protein!! Thanks so much for spreading awareness :)

    1. Thank you so much for reading this blog entry and for your comment. My heart goes out to your brother. I'm glad this article resonated with you, so if you know anyone with severe food allergies, please share it with your loved ones. Recently one of my Dad's friends suggested that maybe I could wear a bright lanyard or a hat to alert people of my severe peanut allergies. I'm afraid this won't work for the same reason peanut free zones do not work for people over 7 years of age.

      As a survivor of this deadly allergy, I don't think I have the right to tell people what food they can or can't eat. I think the best course of action is communication: tell the people I'm with about my allergy before we're around food, and how to use my epi-pen in case something happens. The other lifesaver for me is carrying my epi-pen around with me everywhere and constant vigilance about everything I eat. Living with the constant threat of death, I can't rely on wearing something to alert people, I can't rely on people understanding what that means and then relying on them to take appropriate action. I can't control other people, I can only control me.