A mom's decision to let her daughter eat a PB&J sandwich at Target has sparked a heated debate about how communities should deal with food allergies. What are the social rules when it comes to peanut allergies? Should people be expected to stop eating peanut products in public?
"Has it become unacceptable to eat peanut butter in public? DD (Dear daughter) was eating PB&J at a store today and a woman stopped me to lecture me about peanut allergies," the mom wrote on the parenting forum UrbanBaby.
The wrath that ensued from fellow parents was swift and brutal.
"That's really inconsiderate," one commenter wrote. "So many kids have life-threatening allergies to peanut butter. Eating it in a shopping cart guarantees it will be smeared on the handle, etc. It's really awful you would do this. Sorry, but imagine if it were your child with the allergy."
Others called her "disgusting" for feeding her child in a shopping cart instead of at a table and "lousy" for creating a situation where peanut butter could be smeared over a public cart.
The mom was surprised to find that so many parents couldn't relate to her having to feed her child on the go. As for the peanut problem, she defended herself several times, saying her 4-year-old ate the sandwich neatly, there was no peanut butter on the cart, and she wiped her daughter's hands when she was done eating. She emphasized that she follows rules about nuts in schools and nut-free spaces but felt that "if there is no specific rule, it's fair game and it's on the people with allergies to protect themselves."
A few people came to her defense and agreed that the onus is on the parent of the severely allergic child to keep their child safe. Peanuts and the many foods that can cause allergic reactions are a part of life, their argument goes, and allergy parents should wipe down surfaces before their child comes into contact with them instead of haranguing a stranger in public.
New research suggests that almost 2.5 percent of U.S. children have peanut allergies, an increase of 21 percent since 2010. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) has reported that about 1.1 percent of people in the U.S. have a tree nut and/or peanut allergy. Of those hospitalized for anaphylaxis, about 63 to 99 are fatal per year in the U.S. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology also said it's highly unlikely for casual exposure to peanut butter, such as coming into skin contact with the peanut product, would spark a major allergic reaction.
But it's also good to remember that not every study applies to every family, and for moms who have kids with potential food allergies, every day can feel like a leap of faith. The question is, how much are you willing to do to keep other kids safe?