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Due to the severe peanut allergy of a first grade girl, students of Edgewater Elementary are required to wash their hands before entering their classroom in the morning and after lunch. They were also told that they had to rinse out their mouths after each meal. The teachers surpervising the handwashing and mouthrinsing were required to wipe down the desks continuously with Clorox wipes. All peanut products are banned at the school and no outside food is allowed to be brought into school holiday parties. In addition, a peanut sniffing dog was brought in two weeks ago. Rumors that children’s mouths were being wiped with disinfectant were quickly dispelled.

Parents, completely exasperated, have been protesting outside the school. One picket sign read, “Our students have rights too.” “On average, it’s probably taking a good 30 minutes out of the day. That’s my child’s education. Thirty minutes could be a while subject,” Carrie Starkey told FoxNews.com.

District spokeswoman Nancy Wait of Volusia County Schools has said that the school is obligated to follow guidelines under the Federal Disabilities Act. “We have moved so far beyond isolating children with disabilities,” she says. “We are required to provide her with an education and to make accommodations for her disability,” she told ParentDish.

And while parents had grumbled about their children not being able to bring in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, the recent move by the school to enforce such a strict regimen have embittered parents who decided enough was enough and took to the streets outside the school in protest. “If I had a daughter who had a problem, I would not ask everyone else to change their lives to fit my life,” said Chris Burr, a father of two older students at the school whose wife has protested. He contends the frustration of parents came to a fever pitch when the school kept adding to the accommodations. (Reuters)

No one wants any harm to come to this first grader. Through no fault of her own, she had acquired this food allergy. But what are the chances of peanut allergy death of actually occurring?

150-200 were the initial numbers that kept reoccurring in my research of food allergy deaths. But upon reading Meredith Broussard’s research in her article, “Food Allergy Deaths: Less Common Than You Think” in the Huffington Post, I discovered that the 150-200 death estimate comes from the media resource kit of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, a lobbying and educational group headed by a former marketing executive at Dey Pharmaceuticals. Dey Pharmaceuticals is the maker of the EpiPen adrenaline injector, a device that millions of food-allergic patients keep on hand in case of emergency.

According to Ms. Broussard, we don’t need to rely on estimates since we have actual data on food allergy deaths from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). They’ve been tracking food allergy deaths since 1998, but this number isn’t publicly available in CDC databases because it is statistically insignificant. So she put in a call to the CDC press office which revealed something very surprising. Eleven out of 2.5 million deaths were from food allergies in 2005, the last year for which this data is available. That’s eleven deaths from food allergies in total, a smaller number would result from peanut allergies alone. More deaths had resulted from lawnmowing accidents. An estimated 90 -100 people die from bee stings (and this number is actually underreported due to mistaken diagnoses as heart attacks, sun strokes or other causes). But we don’t tell people not to mow their lawns or refrain from going outdoors.

Again the media, schools, and people in power have shouted fire in a crowded theater. Using questionable data, they have successfully scared the public into thinking that peanut allergy deaths was another major catastrophe that could only averted with the help of our “paternal power”. This would the umpteenth item under a long list that includes, but not limited to:
1. Heterosexual Aids
2. Killer African Bees
3. Swine Flu
4. Mad Cow Disease
5. Bird Flu
6. SARS
7. Silicone Gel Implants
8. Y2K
9. DDT
10. Global Warming

So if some folks want to point their socially conscientious finger at the parents protesting outside of Edgewater Elementary, maybe they should get their facts and statistics straight. And not to belittle the eleven people that die each year from food allergies, they are the ones that need to take the proper precautions, not the rest of the 311,046,781 people in this country.

In my research I found two recents incidents a few years apart. It coincidentally involved two 13-year-old girls who unknowingly ingested restaurant food and was without an EpiPen. Peanut allergy deaths do occur, but with such infrequency, which is in stark contrast to what the media and powerful institutions would have you believe.

We keep falling for the hysteria du jour. When will we ever learn?

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