Fuss Over Peanut Fumes

In “The Buzz on (Food) Bans” in the June/July 2014 issue of School Nutrition, author Arianne Corbett, RD, discusses the controversial issue of food allergy management and prevention in school settings. A good first step is understanding that allergic reactions can vary from general discomfort to life-threatening suffocation. It’s also important to note that there is no cure for food allergies. “Strict avoidance of food allergens and early recognition and management of allergic reactions to food are important measures to prevent serious health consequences,” reports Food Allergy Research & Education.

Peanuts are among the top eight food allergens that cause the greatest incidence of severe reactions. This periodically gains attention in the general consumer media, ranging from calls for product bans in many settings, including airplanes. One contention for the support of such bans is the claim that the mere fumes of a food allergen being served or consumed nearby can trigger a reaction in someone allergic to a specific food.

According to a 2009 report by The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, “Allergic reactions to food are immunologic responses to food protein allergens and not to the odors of food, which are neurologic responses triggered by volatile organic compounds. These volatile organic compounds…are not proteins and do not trigger allergic reactions.”

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