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What’s Really Causing All These Peanut Allergies?

What’s Really Causing All These Peanut Allergies?

Written by Katherine Martinko

It wasn’t until I had kids that I realized how serious peanut allergies have become. Fortunately my own children don’t have allergies, but many of their friends do, and there are nut-free policies everywhere we go. I brush their teeth carefully and wash their hands to remove all traces of peanut butter after breakfast. I don’t mind, since I can’t imagine how stressful and scary it would be to have a child with an allergy. But as someone who practically survived on peanut butter while growing up, I can’t help but ask why all these allergies have suddenly appeared. What’s causing them?

No one knows for sure, but in an article called “The Hidden Truth about Peanuts: From Food Allergies to Farm Practices,” Robyn O’Brien asks a provocative question: ”Are we allergic to food? or what’s been done to it?” She explores the toxic agricultural practices behind peanut farming. Peanuts, which are actually a legume that grows in the ground, have a soft, absorbent shell. Peanut crops are often rotated with cotton, which receives applications of glyphosate, a herbicide that damages beneficial microorganisms in the soil. This leads to more diseases attacking the peanut crop, which requires more pesticides. The USDA found 8 pesticides in peanut butter, and piperonyl butoxide, a carcinogen, was found 26.9 percent of the time. O’Brien cites a farmer who says, “It is common to see a conventional peanut crop sprayed with some type of pesticide every 8-10 days during the growing season.”

Then there’s the problem of “aflatoxin,” a poison that’s released from a fungus that grows on peanuts. Scientists at Cornell University have found a correlation between liver cancer and peanut consumption, but Dr. Andrew Weil points out that there aren’t any liver cancer outbreaks among American kids, many of whom eat plenty of peanut butter. Aflatoxin levels vary greatly, depending on peanut butter brands. The lowest amounts are found in big brands, such as Jif and Skippy, and the highest levels are in the freshly ground peanut butter from health food stores. Perhaps this is due to the rate of turnover. Regardless, it’s a lose-lose situation: you can have fungus on natural peanut butter or genetically modified additives (sugar, hydrogenated oils, corn syrup) in conventional peanut butter. (Another option is to buy almond or cashew butters, which grow on trees and have less exposure to soil pesticides.)

O’Brien raises a valid question. It makes sense that eating foods bathed in chemicals will have a serious impact on human health, and we’re probably just starting to see the effects since shifting from small, diversified farms to large-scale mono-crops. While it’s probably too late to undo the plethora of peanut allergies (although some research has been done in this area on reintroducing miniscule quantities of peanuts to children), perhaps we can decrease allergies in the next generation by paying closer attention to how peanuts are produced and by supporting smaller, organic growers that cultivate peanuts as the easy, problem-free crop that they’re supposed to be. Better yet, I’m going to try growing some peanuts next summer and make my own peanut butter.

This post was originally published in TreeHugger

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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12:44PM PST on Dec 31, 2013

When I was a kid in elementary school sixty years ago, we all shared goodies from our lunch boxes with our friends. NO ONE had to be kept away from peanut butter - NO ONE in all the years. These freakish allergies have escalated exponentially with the injection of vaccines into the healthy, new bloodstreams of our infants and children. In addition to pus and putrescence from all manner of sick and dying animals, there is a plethora of toxic chemical fixatives and carcinogenic ingredients in vaccines -- mercury, aluminum, formaldehyde, glycerin, carbolic acid, squalene to name a few. These voodoo mixtures cause the body to turn on itself in auto-immune reaction -- hence, escalating cases of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ALS, multiple sclerosis and a host of other unnecessary ailments that help sell an ever growing host of new drugs. In addition to the insult of vaccines on the body, we have frankenfood, grown with poisonous fertilizers and pesticides and all manner of lethal, unnecessary chemicals in the materials that surround us constantly in our own homes -- all courtesy of the medical/chemical/pharmaceutical/industrial complex. It's time people wake up, educate themselves and take responsibility for their own lives and the health of this planet before it's too late.

1:11AM PST on Dec 13, 2013

Thanks

4:08PM PST on Dec 12, 2013

Nikolas K - This statement is not fact: "We need to all stop buying foods that cause harm by the use of chemicals and then we will see a disappearance of allergies."

I have known for 40 years that I am deathly allergic to an enzyme in fresh pineapple. This has nothing to do with pesticides sprayed on the soil, the plant or the fruit. It is to the fruit itself.

I am also lactose intolerant... this has nothing to do with chemicals being fed to cows and everything to do with genetics.

It is so easy to blame the large farming companies, or the chemical companies; but we really need to do more scientific studies on allergies: causes, symptoms, cures. And people need become more aware of allergy symptoms; and triggers.

3:56PM PST on Dec 12, 2013

Bill C - regarding boiled vs dry roasted - my husband does not have a peanut allergy, but he does get digestion problems when he eats boiled peanuts. He loves them, so I have to remind him that he needs to not eat them or suffer the bellyaches.

12:30PM PST on Dec 12, 2013

We need to all stop buying foods that cause harm by the use of chemicals and then we will see a disappearance of allergies. Interesting alllergies only became a problem when the chemical companies started making artificial fertilizers and chemicals to supposedly keep it pest free, nature takes care of it own and if a plant is healthy it wont attract pests.or be harmed by them.

6:13AM PST on Dec 12, 2013

I wish there was a cure for peanut allergies!

3:19AM PST on Dec 12, 2013

Thank you.

8:48AM PST on Dec 11, 2013

We need to have GMO labeling! Thanks for sharing.

7:38AM PST on Dec 11, 2013

Thanks.

1:45AM PST on Dec 11, 2013

It does not matter which food you eat even organic someone somewhere will always be allergic to it.

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Lindsay Spangler Lindsay Spangler is a Web Editor and Producer for Care2 Causes. A recent UCLA graduate, she lives in... more
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