An NPR-Thomson Reuters Health Poll surveyed about 3000 adults regarding food allergies. About half indicated that they felt food allergies fears might be out of proportion to the actual risk, which doesn't surprise me. I have often felt that way myself, although I consider myself to be well educated and tolerant of food allergies and intolerances in general.
I was really surprised to see that despite the fact that half of us think that people are over reacting about their allergies, 59% said that they are okay with food bans in public places. Personally, I am of two minds concerning food bans.
On the one hand, I empathize with those who have air-borne reactions to food. Sophie has had multiple reactions to things like boiling pasta, eggs frying in a pan, other children playing with Play-Doh, etc. She has not tended to react to people eating nuts or peanuts around her, but I can understand what that might be like. And I want people who have those troubles to be protected.
On the other hand, are problems solved by eliminating nuts and peanuts from airplane cabins and classrooms? According to the Reuters poll, one third of people who had an allergy were allergic to milk--beating out peanuts as most common allergy by a margin of more than 20%. I don't think I'm alone in feeling that banning peanuts or tree nuts from public places leaves a lot of food allergy patients in the lurch.
I don't have a generic solution to this problem. I'm glad people are accepting of food allergy bans; they are definitely a step in the right direction. What if we banned food altogether in certain situations? For example, in Sophie's classroom, instead of banning snacks with certain ingredients, what if snacks could only be eaten in the lunchroom? Or maybe 4th graders are old enough to go from breakfast to lunch to the end of school without snacks! The same could apply on short airplane flights, in museums (other than in the cafeteria), and all sorts of places.
I am still of two minds on the subject--have food bans gone too far, or have they just not gone far enough?