No need to ban peanuts from school

Here’s an interesting article that I found while surfing the web the other day.  It’s from

While acknowledging that peanut allergies can be severe, there is a greater emphasis on managing the allergy and being prepared to act in case of emergency rather than banning the food all together.

I’ve reproduced a quotation from the article.

“Dr. Bahna said:

    “Unfortunately, life is not risk-free. A minority of people are severely allergic to peanuts, but it is not reasonable or possible to expect schools or airlines to be peanut-free. Consideration should be also given to the freedom of the vast majority of non-allergic persons. Also, peanut is not the only food that can cause severe allergy.”

It highlights two of the major debates in risk management that I often think about:

How much should our lives be regulated by the needs of a few?

Does broadscale regulation for some things, like banning peanut products,  actually lead to better outcomes?

What do you think?




About Julie Rudner

With great excitement for the adventure we were about to go on, my mother would shout out, "We're off to see the Wizard"! It didn't matter if we were going to the shops for milk, the museum or a holiday. My mum focused on the joy of the everyday, knowing that if we engaged with life, we would always find something new and positive. With great animation my dad would explain the workings of things and how to pull things apart, put them back together, and if the situation called for it, make something new. My sister and I were taught to evaluate situations, make our decisions, and reap the consequences (both good and bad). We were encouraged to push our boundaries and not let fear prevent us from pursuing our dreams. Importantly, we learned to pick ourselves up, learn from our 'failures', and use our valuable lessons to build our confidence, independence and strength in ourselves.
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3 Responses to No need to ban peanuts from school

  1. roryrory says:

    My kids are not allergic to nuts but a good friend’s son is. My take on the peanut thing in schools is I am happy to go “nut free” because kids are such “lunch scabs”. The chances of an allergic kid (and there are quite a few in most schools) touching, kissing or licking a kid who has just eaten peanut butter (for example) is low on the grand scale, but too high when you consider how easily it can be avoided.

  2. Phil Hansen says:

    This is a very interesting and controversial topic, and one that affects my life on a daily basis. My partner and I have twins who are both allergic to nuts, specifically peanuts and cashews, but with varying degrees of sensitivity. My son, for instance, can consume hazels, macadamias and a couple of others (but not peanuts and cashews), yet his twin sister has strong reactions to most nuts. They both must carry Epipens (adrenaline shots) with them at all times. The thesis that risk aversion should apply to emergency or remedial action only rather than community good applies the dual quandries of ‘who is at risk in this situation?’ and ‘what is the community good?’ Sorry, Julie if I have paraphrased the two major debates you often think about in risk management.

    Firstly, our children are incredibibly well versed in both emergency risk management (as are all the parents who’s homes they regularly vistit freely, and the school they attend – the teachers are all trained in anaphalaxis emergencies) and avoiding the potential for consuming potentially death foods. It has taken several years of constant and tedious reiteration (behavioural psychological brainwashing) for them to autonomously and instinctivley ask the important questions about what foods may or may not contain. This has not been a particularly easy task as parents. At the same time we acknowledge that this our medical issue, as much as it that of our children and they will grow up to own it. The difficulty becomes communal when we send our kids off into the world and find situations when they, or we have no control. For instance, recently a group of well meaning school parents decided to make free sandwiches for all the kids in the school. They were not aware of nut allergies and my partner noticed by happenstance that the same knife was used for the margarine as the peanut butter. Our well trained kids would have asked what was in the sandwiches and would have assumed that the honey or vegemite ones would have been safe, had my partner not noticed and asked them to use a seperate knife. There is no amount of community awareness that can penetrate everywhere; the risk is indeed shared. How much should our lives be regulated by the needs of a few? Perhaps we need to pose the question of the value that the majority of having the ‘right’ to consume nuts against the ‘right’ to avoid serious consequences for the few.

    I rallied against Castlemaine’s water supply being contaminated with fluoride on the basis that it, based on Victoria’s chief health scientist’s claim that tooth decay is rife, was akin to polluting the water supply with paracetamol because some people get headaches. This is a clear and sanctioned example of the rights of a few overriding the majority wishes. I thought this was wrong, and still do. But who dies from lack of fluoride? It is easily available from the chemist in a regulated (unlike the water supply) form. While the irony does not escape me, the view that community wellbeing is best served by preventing potential threats to life rather than individual rights to consume what they want remains important. Better outcomes surely must include easily preventable deaths! And certainly regulation, volutary or enforced, is a tool used by all great democracies to provide a level of certainty. MMMM? Planning comes to mind!

  3. Julie Rudner says:

    I think your post raise an important point:

    Risk is shared.

    Viewing risk as shared requires a deeper consideration of the questions:

    How do we decide which issues should be predominantly managed by individuals and which issues should be predominantly managed by the collective (social group) through general rules, policies, regulations?

    At which point should the balance shift between individual and collective responsibilities?

    In the particular situation of nut-consumption the following matters need to be considered:

    The different degrees and configurations of allergies that makes the issue highly complex for children and for adults who are learning about the allergy, or who are inexperienced with a particular child’s allergy characteristics.

    The unknown length of time and variety of experiences required for children and others to learn about the variety of ways in which the allergen-causing material can be transfered to a person affected by allergies – whether through consumption or touch.
    [As you noted: It has taken several years of constant and tedious reiteration (behavioural psychological brainwashing) for them to autonomously and instinctivley ask the important questions about what foods may or may not contain.]

    The severity of consequences, which in this case are immediation and potentially fatal, with little time to remedy the situation.


    I must admit, I have changed my view on this situation. I placed greater emphasis on the individual for all ages and circumstances. I am now more inclined to see the value of collective management when groups are making food for other groups as it is so easy to accidentally transfer peanut butter or something else via cookware & utensils. However, I am still undecided about whether kids should be banned from taking peanut butter sandwiches, nuts or other such things to school, and whether there is a minimum age at which this sort of food should be brought to school. All kids need to learn about these sorts of allergies, whether they have them or not, and part of this learning may include learning not to share certain things.

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