Peanut are big business in Georgia – about $2 billion worth. There, peanut farmers are grappling with a severe drought that cut this year’s supplies, along with the peanut allergy issue. In Georgia, peanut farmers and lobbyists are attempting an image makeover in the wake of peanut and peanut butter bans in schools and other public places.
According to theNews Observer,farmers worried about the effect that these bans could have on crop sales, have undergone peanut mission trips to Haiti and sub-Saharan Africa. There, peanut allergies are far less prevalent, and the food is seen as a source of nutrition for malnourished children.
Scientists in Georgia, where nearly half of the country’s peanuts are grown, are working to create a ‘hypoallergenic peanut’ that would be safe for those with peanut allergies. Dan Koehler, executive director of the Georgia Peanut Commission, said that he and his colleagues work closely with the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, running a program in which they visit classrooms to discuss food allergies.
Brian Vickery, of the pediatrics department at Duke University Medical Center, said part of the reason for the peanut backlash is that in comparison to other food allergens, peanut allergies tend to be severe, leading schools, ballparks, and other public places to ban them out of concern for allergy sufferers. “The concept of banning a food item has a lot of other unintended food consequences that may or may not be in the best interest of other students,” said Vickery. “It becomes very difficult to draw lines of what is acceptable and not acceptable. How do you decide nuts are not OK but milk is OK?”