You know I'm all for protecting people with food allergies, but I think sometimes our fear takes precedence over reality. Food bans are a hot topic in the allergy community, and I've been on the receiving end of some hate over my hesitation to support them without question. There's actually little proof that blanket food bans really keep anaphylactic people safe: many experts feel they're ineffective. Giving people (kids, especially) a false sense of security is the last thing I want to do when anaphylaxis is a real threat. Of course, I also don't want a young child who cannot possibly comprehend anaphylaxis to be exposed to allergens, either. We work constantly to help our son (who is almost six-years-old) to learn about his allergies, and how to keep himself as safe as possible. People need to live their lives in a world filled with various allergens, and I just don't think it's reasonable to ban everything.
Over the years, my opinions about banning foods have changed a little. I still think that for young kids, bans in preschools, daycares and primary classes are a good idea. I don't think, though, that for older kids, it's necessary or even really possible. And so, is it realistic to expect the wider community to eliminate allergens, too? I know a lot of people are angry that peanuts are even sold still. Remember how irate everyone got when Tim Horton's started selling Nutella donuts? If we start banning peanuts, where will the accommodations end? There are life-threatening allergies to dairy, so maybe we should end ice cream altogether. And let's not forget eggs -- we should stop breakfast sandwich production. Honestly, maybe we should just stop growing peanuts altogether. That'll solve the problem, right?
I read that Hamilton, Ontario is considering banning peanuts from all city buildings and I just know that many in the allergy community will applaud this move, but I'm not sure it's a good one. Now, I have to give the local Hamilton government credit because they've been so proactive in their efforts to protect those with life-threatening allergies. Some Hamilton mall guards carry EpiPens (awesome!), and they've pushed for restaurants to all stock epinephrine auto-injectors (fantastic idea!), but I'm not sure that banning peanuts in all their city buildings is realistic. The reality is that we must teach our allergic kids to live with their allergens. Even Dr. Susan Waserman, one of the world's leading allergy researchers says, "Most risk is from ingestion. Just sitting beside somebody who is eating a peanut sandwich, if you don't touch them, touch the surfaces, don't share any of the stuff that's with them, if somebody is competent in managing those sorts of things, then probably eight years of age and up, in that ballpark, could be counted upon to do it."
I understand that the risk of anaphylaxis is terrifying; I live with that fear every time my son eats something I haven't prepared from scratch. Being the parent of an allergic child is so much more stressful than many people realize, but I cannot ban everything that's dangerous in my child's world. So, with Lysol wipes in hand, I venture out into the world with my small son. And what about those who can die from all those other foods? How far can we go to protect all people with life-threatening allergies?
The answers aren't easy. I don't want to risk anyone's life, but I also don't think it's truly possible to just expect the world to stop eating foods that are allergic to only a few. I really love that some sports stadiums offer nut-free areas, and I love even more that there are restaurants that understand the struggle, and are allergy-friendly. But this is a huge world, and I think that education will go a lot further than blanket bans.
What do you think?