The Future of the Embattled Peanut

Goober peas, pig nuts, monkey nuts, ground nuts, or just plain peanuts, whatever you want to call them; the lowly peanut is both the most egalitarian nut, as well as the most feared. While peanuts are cheap, accessible, and satisfying, they are also one of the most common food allergy culprits, affecting one in two hundred people. For some with severe peanut allergies, even the most insignificant contact can trigger severe reactions that can be fatal.

Peanuts, as much enjoyment the other 99.5 percent of the population derives from them, are no laughing matter.

Just this past week, Kroger, the supermarket chain, was forced to recall countless tubs of Kroger Deluxe Chocolate Paradise Ice Cream (sold in over 17 states) as the ice cream may contain tree nuts (strange to think that no one can be certain in this day and age) and wasn’t labeled accordingly. The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a proposal severely limiting the customary distribution of packages of peanuts on airplane flights. “DOT believes that a severe peanut allergy counts as a disability — and federal law prohibits air carriers from discriminating against individuals with a disability,” according to a DOT sponsored website. The DOT outlined three distinct options: banning airlines from serving peanuts; banning them only on flights where a person with a peanut allergy requests it ahead of time; or requiring a peanut-free “buffer zone” around an allergy sufferer if they ask ahead of time (many public schools already ban peanut butter and peanut-based foods out of concern for students whom suffer from nut allergies).

The motivation for these draconian measures stems from a place of relative good: an attempt to protect those with moderate to severe peanut allergies. However, some at American Department of Agriculture’s Food Allergy Research Group in New Orleans believes that the source of many of these extreme and deadly peanut allergies are a collection of distinct proteins found in the nuts. Researchers studied 900 varieties of peanut, looking for naturally occurring mutations, which left them with lower levels of the dangerous proteins. Out of this research came a “low-risk” peanut with significantly reduced levels of the allergy-causing proteins that could be massed produced. This development has the potential to bring hope, and a little bit of security, for those who live day to day in fear of what lies beyond the nutshell.

Ice cream bans, peanut-free zones, and genetically modified peanuts, all to safeguard a fraction of the population? Is this altruism and self-sacrifice or is it extreme measures that infringe on the rights of the majority? Is the peanut worth fighting for (I am sure the peanut lobby would think so) or should we keep them locked up, heavily regulated, and far away from those whom they would do harm?

Feel free to weigh in.

58 comments

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers27 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers27 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jennifer C.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

K s Goh
KS Goh5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Thomas Carpenter
Thomas Carpenter5 years ago

Genetically modifying peanuts to prevent allergies? I thought gm products were supposed to be bad and scary? (I wouldn't mind if the cats could be modified to not shed anymore...)

Joy Mcronald
Joy McRonald5 years ago

Very interesting..Thanks

Robert O.
Robert O5 years ago

Interesting, thanks.

Kat K.
Kat K.6 years ago

Agree with Read, some people think that peanuts are the same as tree nuts. I don't eat peanuts 'cos I don't like them, but hubby loves PB on toast with chopped garlic!
Had a neighbour who refused to allow her boy to try nuts, just 'in case.'

Trish K.
Trish K6 years ago

I love PB and ate all of my life until recently. Now I don't feel well after eating it. I think it could be fungal growth on the outsides of the tender peanut shell. Have you ever tried to wash a PB jar out ? If it is Skippy or some other un natural brand then you will be surprised how much soap and shaking you have to do. It is just gross and can just imagine what it must be clinging to inside me. e w w w

Daniel B.
Daniel B6 years ago

Article is slightly confusing and jumps from one problem (allergies) to something else entirely, but either way it's a bemusing and interesting read. Thanks for posting.