A school district in York, Ontario, has taken peanut and tree-nut bans to another level by requesting that parents stop sending foods containing nut-butter lookalikes. The district has banned nut-free peanut butter alternatives, such as spreads made of soy, sunflower seeds, or toasted peas.

Licinio Miguelo, a spokesperson for the York Region School Board, explained:

“It’s hard in a busy room with kids having lunch to figure out what’s the real thing and what’s an imitation product. What we’re trying to do is minimize the risk for students.”

Some peanut-butter alternatives look and smell like the real thing, which can cause confusion about what is safe to eat.

Parents Object to Policy

According to Miguelo, most of the district’s parents have accepted the ban.

“I think they sympathize and understand that this may cause an increased risk to students,” he said.

Some parents, however, object to the ban. Lee Parpart, who has one child attending school within the district, says peanut-butter alternatives have a place in school lunches. She sometimes sends a Sunbutter and jelly sandwich with her daughter, who has a severe nut allergy. Parpart commented:

“I think people need to be trusted to send the correct food.”

Meg Stokes once made the mistake of sending peanut-imitation products for her 8-year-old daughter’s lunch. When she did, school staff ‘badgered’ her child, repeatedly telling her she shouldn’t have the spread at school. Even after packing a copy of the spread’s label with her child’s lunch, the nut-free spread provoked the same reaction.

Dr. Paul Keith, president of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, says he hasn’t heard of any other districts who have banned peanut butter alternatives.

“I think this is an interesting strategy that’s being adopted. It will be interesting to see how it plays out,” he said.

What do you think of the school district’s decision to ban peanut butter alternatives?

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