Peanut butter bans at some New York schools are spreading bewilderment in Georgia, where most of the nation's peanuts are grown.
Prompted by parents' warnings of lethal peanut allergies and the fear of lawsuits, a handful of private New York schools have declared war on peanuts and peanut butter, foods wildly popular with even finicky youngsters.Kids who are stuck on "PB&J" are out of luck: Some schools have banned the foods outright, while others have set up peanut-free zones or formed committees to study the issue.
"It's a very emotional issue for people who have young children in school," Mitch Head, executive director of the Atlanta-based Peanut Advisory Board, said Thursday. "It's unfortunate that in most cases emotions have overridden logic."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 88 deaths from all food allergies between 1979 to 1995. But the Fairfax, Va.-based nonprofit Food Allergy Network - supported by allergists - believes the deaths are underreported.
Milder forms of peanut allergies can cause hives, coughing and wheezing and upset stomachs, doctors say. Under a recent Transportation Department directive, airlines must set aside at least three rows where no peanuts could be served whenever an allergic passenger has made an advance request.
"People are going to be allergic to things. To have peanuts singled out seems unfair," said Jerry Usry, executive director of the Georgia Peanut Producers Association.
Head said he knew of no such bans in Georgia, where the peanut generates revenues of about $500 million a year as the state's second-highest cash crop behind cotton.