How has peanut allergy crept up on 21st century children? In 1997 there were 416,000 peanut allergic children in the USA; in 2009 there were 4.5 million. This is a thousand-fold increase in a mere 12 years…. And the numbers are still rising.
Rising almost as fast is the number of theories as to what may be causing this explosion but none, until the publication of Heather Fraser’s History of the Peanut Allergy Epidemic, offered a credible explanation for this phenomenon.
Her theory, in essence, runs as follows:
Injection is a very efficient way to induce anaphylaxis. Vaccinations have, since the early 20th century, been given by injection. Since the end of WWII most vaccinations have contained a significant amount of refined peanut oil.
Peanuts are notoriously allergenic and despite claims to the contrary, refining cannot entirely remove all peanut protein from peanut oil.From the end of WWII to the late 1980s there was a gradual rise the in the number of peanut allergic children. In the late 1980s, in the US, the vaccination programme was massively extended with the aim of ensuring that 90% of pre-schoolchildren were vaccinated by the year 2000. This programme was adopted by the WHO and followed in all countries influenced by WHO guidelines.In order to reach their 90% target children were vaccinated younger and younger (from around two years down to within a few days of birth) Vaccines to more and more conditions (from 10 up to 29) were deemed to be necessary.
In order to make administration easier and increase compliance vaccines were combined into multiple doses of up to five vaccines in one syringe. The start of the epidemic rise in peanut allergy coincides almost exactly with the ramping up of the vaccination programme in the late 1980s.
Ergo – the peanut allergy epidemic among children has been caused by the use of peanut oil in vaccinations and by the massively increased vaccine programme which has been applied to children in the Western world from early 1990s onwards.
Now, logical and credible though this explanation may seem to you and me, there are a very great number of people to whom, whether or not it is logical and sensible, it will certainly not be acceptable:
The vaccine manufacturers who have made billions out of the expanded vaccination programme.
The US and other governments who have made infant vaccination a central plank Â of their healthcare programmes
Pharmaceutical companies and the food industry who have made more billions out of the allergy medications and freefrom foods spawned by the allergy epidemic
All of the above if the US Vaccine Injury Compensation Programme, which effectively prevents anyone suing vaccine manufacturers for damage caused by vaccinations, were to be repealed opening the doors to a flood of class actions by the parents of peanut allergic children.
But, as the numbers keep rising, we need a more clear headed approach to the problem than endless debate as to whether the peanuts should be boiled or roasted and whether pregnant women should avoid peanuts or eat plenty of them. How many more families have to subjected to the horror of living a life in which, at any moment, their child could be killed, in a matter of minutes, by a random contact with peanut dust?
And what about the fallout in the rest of society?
OK, peanut farmers may have benefitted from the wholesale use of peanut oil in vaccines but they are definitely suffering now and will suffer a good deal more if peanuts are banned from aeroplanes as is currently being discussed in the USA.
And how about schools, restaurants, cafes, shops, trains, buses and all the other many public places where people and food meet?
Schools have been thrown into turmoil by the growth in all allergy, but especially peanut allergy. Staff have needed extra training, kitchens have been turned upside down, children have had that staple of the lunch box, the peanut butter sandwich, banned and everyone within the school lives in permanent fear of child having an allergic reaction.
Meanwhile policy committees, school governors, newspapers, radio shows, blogs and now airlines agonise over how to deal with allergenic foods such as peanuts. Should they be banned entirely? Should allergy sufferers just learn to live with their allergies? Is there a half way house?
Which raises the whole philosophical problem of to what extent the majority should be required to adapt their life styles to accommodate the minority, especially when that minority find themselves in a disadvantaged situation through no fault of their own.
Organisations such as the Anaphylaxis Campaign take, what seems to me to be a very rational and sensible standpoint: there is no way that the world can be made peanut-free to accommodate peanut allergy sufferers so the latter must learn to live with the risk – but the risk should be minimised wherever possible. So all foods should be comprehensively labelled, everyone should know about and understand the risks run by those who are allergic and every effort should be made by food producers and handlers to avoid contamination, but, when all is said and done, it is the allergic person who has to take responsibility for their own safety, monitor their own food intake and ensure that they have their medication available and are able to use it.
Easy to say – but hard to live with. How much better if the riddle could be solved – maybe Heather Fraser just has – and the whole horrible mess cleaned up….