What can possibly be so controversial about peanut allergies? Plenty, apparently. According to an article in yesterday’s Jamaica Plain Patch, “peanut products are still served in many school cafeterias” and “almost half of children who have food allergies have been bullied.”
This report was startling, at least to me. Everyone knows that peanut allergies have been severely on the upswing, for whatever reason (and nobody really knows why). Students have died from anaphylactic shock after accidentally ingesting even a tiny amount of peanuts. EpiPen training is a routine requirement in schools now. Of course anaphylactic shock can result from other allergies besides peanuts — allergies to tree nuts and bee stings are fairly common, for instance — but peanuts deservedly get the most publicity because of the dramatic increase in peanut allergies in kids. And then there’s the PB&J problem discussed in the article. But what’s up with the backlash reported there? Why are “many school cafeterias” still serving peanut products? And why are children with food allergies bullied any more than other children? Of course the quotation that “almost half of children who have food allergies have been bullied” is meaningless unless we have a baseline: perhaps 47% of kids with food allergies are bullied and 45% of kids without food allergies are bullied. I’m just making up those figures, but unless we know the actual data we can’t be the least bit sure that the phrase “almost half of children…” is statistically meaningful.