Banning peanut butter substitutes?

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fuchsiasky's picture
Joined: 11/16/07
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Banning peanut butter substitutes?

Ban on peanut-butter substitutes sticks in parents' craw

A London, Ont., school board has banned peanut butter substitutes simply because they could be confused with their peanut counterparts, angering parents already frustrated by efforts to find an acceptable lunch their kids will eat.

In a recent memo, Thames Valley District school board director Bill Tucker wrote that "any products considered to be a peanut butter replacement are no more appropriate in our schools than regular peanut butter."

Parents were asked to "avoid using peanut butter and peanut butter alternatives because of the difficulty in being able to distinguish alternatives from the real thing."

"There's a lot of upset parents," said Scott Mahon, maker of WowButter, a "safe for school" soy-based spread marketed as tasting "just like peanut butter." Manufactured one hour north of London, WowButter was specifically named in the district-wide memo.

To combat mix-ups with real peanut butter, WowButter promotes an elaborate step-by-step labelling program. On the first day of school, WowButter parents send a prepared letter to the child's teacher indicating their intention to pack the product in school lunches. From then on, every sandwich bag or container carried by the child is affixed with a "100% peanut and nut free" label provided by the company.

The company ships across North America, but so far, London is the only school district to raise hackles over the issue, said Mahon. "This is the frustrating part; we have hundreds of schools across Canada who have requested free samples and information . . . they've chosen the education route," said Mahon. "The Thames Valley School Board has chosen to not educate and restrict — it just doesn't make any sense."

"I write in permanent marker on the baggie the sandwich is in that it is 'pea-butter, contains NO NUTS'. . . I'll be very upset if they tell me I can't use the fake stuff anymore," a commenter named Jane-Ann Hunter wrote on the London Free Press website.

Particularly galling to pro-substitute advocates is the realization that the school board decision was spurred by a complaint from a single parent. "Apparently ONE parent complained and now we must all suffer," wrote Free Press commenter Krista Vogt. "It is tyranny of the minority."

"One parent has ruined a good product for 40,000 kids in the Thames Valley district," said Mahon.

Regardless, Tucker maintains that labels are useless in the chaos of an elementary school lunch hour. "Kids like to talk, they like to mingle, they like to dialogue — so the dynamics of a lunchtime classroom are less controlled than that of a classroom during the school day," said Tucker.

As for parents' vociferous defence of a lunch spread, Mahon attributes it to finicky kids. "You send cheese to school and it gets soggy, you send lunch meat and it gets soft and slimy — and the lunch comes home uneaten," he said. "With WowButter they come home and they've eaten their lunch."

Nearly two per cent of Canadian children are at risk from consuming peanuts. For some, even a whiff of peanut butter on a desk is enough to prompt a reaction.

In the 1990s, London-area schools were among the first in North America to implement school bans on peanut products — a measure that is now common practice across Canada and the United States.

http://www.timescolonist.com/life/peanut+butter+substitutes+sticks+parents+craw/5549994/story.html

So you think it is ok to ban the pb substitute? Is this taking things too far?

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

too far, no point in banning it except it is more work to check that it isn't really pb.

fuchsiasky's picture
Joined: 11/16/07
Posts: 955

I think this is taking things way too far. I understand that lunchtime can be chaotic, but if a school has banned pb then they need to trust that the parents wont send it. And if someone has labeled a sandwich as "non-peanut butter" that should suffice.

culturedmom's picture
Joined: 09/30/06
Posts: 1131

Again parents getting pissed over school policy that really is not a big deal. Oy.

wlillie's picture
Joined: 09/17/07
Posts: 1796

It is a big deal; the parents found something that has no chance of hurting any child, the company provides labels specifically to mark the items as peanut free, AND a letter describing the product, why on Earth shouldn't they be allowed to use it? You'd have to be too stupid to be a teacher if you can't read the label on the sandwich. 40,000 students, 39,200 who aren't allergic to peanuts, 0 allergic to the substitute, and one adult complained and they ban it? If the one adult thinks the substitute is too dangerous, then they need to pull their kid out of public and homeschool.

ftmom's picture
Joined: 09/04/06
Posts: 1538

Way to far! There is no reason to ban this product. It is a danger to no one. All this is is a trust issue. They dont trust parents to not try to 'sneak' in peanut butter under the label of peanut free. Thats crazy to me. Our pre-school program uses a peanut butter substitute all the time (dont think it is this one though). The kids think it is peanut butter, it makes a good sandwich, and everyone is safe.

b525's picture
Joined: 06/06/07
Posts: 298

This is silly. If peanut butter is banned, then it's not like the kids are going to be accidentally ingesting or inhaling peanut butter when someone brings in a Wowbutter sandwich.

Joined: 01/06/03
Posts: 1175

I think the concern is that someone/somebodies may not know it's NOT really peanut butter and think it is and that somebody is sending their child with a "banned" food... and it's causing confusion.

That said... I do not agree with it. I have NO issue with banning peanuts/nut products... but I do not agree with banning the substitutes.... request that the parent lets the school know they are sending it if they wish, but don't ban it IMO. I can tell you though, that if I didn't know, I would think it was PB, because it does look and sell like it, and per the kids, it tastes like it.

At our school Wowbutter has been OK'd by the principal (at least so far) but I do know of 2 schools in the area who have sent notes home saying it is NOT OK because people can't tell the difference. I have sent it twice with my kids (it's expensive for a little jar so it's a very occasional treat)... the first time I sent notes to school with them letting their teachers know it was in their lunch and that it may occasionally be there in the future.

I disagree with this though...

As for parents' vociferous defence of a lunch spread, Mahon attributes it to finicky kids. "You send cheese to school and it gets soggy, you send lunch meat and it gets soft and slimy — and the lunch comes home uneaten," he said. "With WowButter they come home and they've eaten their lunch."

I send both quite regularly, I put an ice pack in their lunch to keep things cold, and never once have they had soggy cheese or soft/slimy lunch meat Wink

Joined: 01/18/06
Posts: 1626

Yep, too far. I'd be one of 'those' parents fighting this.

Geez, can you imagine if one school adopted all the ridiculous bans that there are out there, how dreadful that place would be? lol.

Joined: 01/06/03
Posts: 1175

"JorgieGirl" wrote:

Yep, too far. I'd be one of 'those' parents fighting this.

I probably wouldn't bother fighting the ban... simply because my kids have survived thus far without peanut butter or a substitute at school so it really wouldn't be a big deal in my grand scheme of things... though I'd definitely roll my eyes and think they were being ridiculous (and tell them so if they asked).

Geez, can you imagine if one school adopted all the ridiculous bans that there are out there, how dreadful that place would be? lol.

I think at the school my neighbour's children go to they are not allowed to bring tuna/fish (as well as having the nut ban)... and I think at my nephew's school there has been occasions where they have banned milk and/or fish for a specific class along with the school-wide nut ban. I think if a school was going to impose everything on everybody, then they'd better start providing lunches for all the kids themselves!

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3189

I agree that the banning can get crazy! I don't understand banning the substitute. I get requiring a certain degree of labeling....is the concern that people will fake it and send real peanut butter with the fake label on it? Seriously I don't understand the logic.

What is the issue with tuna? Milk?

I'm going to ban flip flops at work because I'm allergic to them.

culturedmom's picture
Joined: 09/30/06
Posts: 1131

Look, I am not a fan of the banning of things, period. I think many schools have found ways for kids to bring the lunches they want and not effect others. But I am also against simply getting up in arms over school decisions just because. My first instinct is to always side with the school (or police) until I know enough information because in my experience parents are generally known to get up in arms over everything even though they are not the ones dealing with the safety of hundreds and thousadns of kids in one building for 6 hours at a time.

Joined: 01/06/03
Posts: 1175

"freddieflounder101" wrote:

What is the issue with tuna? Milk?

There are some kids who have a severe, anaphylactic reaction to tuna (ie fish) or milk (ie dairy). I think, however, an anaphylactic reaction to those is a lot less common than anaphylaxis to peanuts/nuts, so I think that's why it is a lot less common to have an outright/school or school board-wide ban on those. And I can't see a school outright banning the milk/tuna unless there were a number of students with anaphylactic allergies to them in different classes... if only one student in the whole school, then very easy to just limit it from that one class.

"culturedmom" wrote:

But I am also against simply getting up in arms over school decisions just because. My first instinct is to always side with the school (or police) until I know enough information because in my experience parents are generally known to get up in arms over everything even though they are not the ones dealing with the safety of hundreds and thousadns of kids in one building for 6 hours at a time.

I agree with this bit.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3189

"culturedmom" wrote:

Look, I am not a fan of the banning of things, period. I think many schools have found ways for kids to bring the lunches they want and not effect others. But I am also against simply getting up in arms over school decisions just because. My first instinct is to always side with the school (or police) until I know enough information because in my experience parents are generally known to get up in arms over everything even though they are not the ones dealing with the safety of hundreds and thousadns of kids in one building for 6 hours at a time.

I don't think this one is "just because", though. Parents found a way to protect the allergic kids and still give their kids something to eat that they like, and to have that banned when it doesn't hurt anybody is actually banning something for no reason more than the parents are protesting for no reason.

culturedmom's picture
Joined: 09/30/06
Posts: 1131

"freddieflounder101" wrote:

I don't think this one is "just because", though. Parents found a way to protect the allergic kids and still give their kids something to eat that they like, and to have that banned when it doesn't hurt anybody is actually banning something for no reason more than the parents are protesting for no reason.

Maybe. And if I have the time or care enough to do more research on it, I might fidn that the case and in the end agree. However, my inclination is on debates liek these where there is only an article to go by, my first impression is to sway my opinion towards the school. Maybe they had an incident where a kid brought peanut butter and it was mistaken for faux peanut butter and it caused a problem. Again, without more info, I tend to lean towards the schools at first glance. I'm not above changing my mind later though.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3189

"culturedmom" wrote:

Maybe. And if I have the time or care enough to do more research on it, I might fidn that the case and in the end agree. However, my inclination is on debates liek these where there is only an article to go by, my first impression is to sway my opinion towards the school. Maybe they had an incident where a kid brought peanut butter and it was mistaken for faux peanut butter and it caused a problem. Again, without more info, I tend to lean towards the schools at first glance. I'm not above changing my mind later though.

Same here. And I agree, hard to tell by one article. But I think sometimes schools and other organizations go to banning right away instead of finding a less extreme (but probably less simple) solution. I agree the allergic kids need to be looked after....but so does everybody else, and if there's a way to do it that's safe for all, why not make the extra effort?

culturedmom's picture
Joined: 09/30/06
Posts: 1131

"freddieflounder101" wrote:

Same here. And I agree, hard to tell by one article. But I think sometimes schools and other organizations go to banning right away instead of finding a less extreme (but probably less simple) solution. I agree the allergic kids need to be looked after....but so does everybody else, and if there's a way to do it that's safe for all, why not make the extra effort?

I agree. I hate zero tolerance. I think schools tend to go to extremes insteadof trusting teachers and admin use their common sense.

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

"Princess&ThePea" wrote:

There are some kids who have a severe, anaphylactic reaction to tuna (ie fish) or milk (ie dairy). I think, however, an anaphylactic reaction to those is a lot less common than anaphylaxis to peanuts/nuts, so I think that's why it is a lot less common to have an outright/school or school board-wide ban on those. And I can't see a school outright banning the milk/tuna unless there were a number of students with anaphylactic allergies to them in different classes... if only one student in the whole school, then very easy to just limit it from that one class.

I agree with this bit.

Are they airborne or just injested. Trouble with peanut oil is it can become airborne... and cause anaphylactic shock when airborne. Or touching someone that touched it.

Joined: 05/13/02
Posts: 414

"Princess&ThePea" wrote:

I think the concern is that someone/somebodies may not know it's NOT really peanut butter and think it is and that somebody is sending their child with a "banned" food... and it's causing confusion.

That said... I do not agree with it. I have NO issue with banning peanuts/nut products... but I do not agree with banning the substitutes.... request that the parent lets the school know they are sending it if they wish, but don't ban it IMO. I can tell you though, that if I didn't know, I would think it was PB, because it does look and sell like it, and per the kids, it tastes like it.

At our school Wowbutter has been OK'd by the principal (at least so far) but I do know of 2 schools in the area who have sent notes home saying it is NOT OK because people can't tell the difference. I have sent it twice with my kids (it's expensive for a little jar so it's a very occasional treat)... the first time I sent notes to school with them letting their teachers know it was in their lunch and that it may occasionally be there in the future.

I disagree with this though...

I send both quite regularly, I put an ice pack in their lunch to keep things cold, and never once have they had soggy cheese or soft/slimy lunch meat Wink

I think that's going way too far.

Marla, how do you wrap/package your kids sandwiches? I'll take a turkey sandwich for lunch, but the side of the bread that's close to the ice pack ALWAYS gets soggy and nasty.

Joined: 01/06/03
Posts: 1175

"Rivergallery" wrote:

Are they airborne or just injested. Trouble with peanut oil is it can become airborne... and cause anaphylactic shock when airborne. Or touching someone that touched it.

I assume milk/tuna would have to be ingested but I don't know... I've never asked or looked into it because we've never been faced with a ban on those in any of my kids' classes.

"mommydearest" wrote:

Marla, how do you wrap/package your kids sandwiches? I'll take a turkey sandwich for lunch, but the side of the bread that's close to the ice pack ALWAYS gets soggy and nasty.

I have hard plastic sandwich containers for my kids (the school wants "litterless lunches") but for dh I use Saran wrap... I just asked dh if his sandwiches get soggy/etc. and he says they don't... so :dontknow: Maybe he's just lucky? Smile

zefroim's picture
Joined: 05/18/06
Posts: 126

"culturedmom" wrote:

Again parents getting pissed over school policy that really is not a big deal. Oy.

Nah, it's the school appeasing a few parents at the expense of many.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3189

"Rivergallery" wrote:

Are they airborne or just injested. Trouble with peanut oil is it can become airborne... and cause anaphylactic shock when airborne. Or touching someone that touched it.

I always have to ask this.....if that's the case isn't it unsafe for those kids to go ANYWHERE?

The mall, the grocery store, the bus, the world?

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

"freddieflounder101" wrote:

I always have to ask this.....if that's the case isn't it unsafe for those kids to go ANYWHERE?

The mall, the grocery store, the bus, the world?

I would think possibly depending on the severity of the allergy. If it is that bad, not sure the child should be at school, I think a tutor provided by public school would be the ticket. One of my highschool friend's son just died because he was so immunocompromised.. he needed bone marrow at 4 I think he was, just passed. They never could take him anywhere because he was always at very high risk of catching everything.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3189

"Rivergallery" wrote:

I would think possibly depending on the severity of the allergy. If it is that bad, not sure the child should be at school, I think a tutor provided by public school would be the ticket.

Right. If the allergy is truly at that level, that kid is already being kept home. Any random stranger could pose a threat.

ftmom's picture
Joined: 09/04/06
Posts: 1538

"freddieflounder101" wrote:

I always have to ask this.....if that's the case isn't it unsafe for those kids to go ANYWHERE?

The mall, the grocery store, the bus, the world?

I think the issue is that 'in general' any other place where your child is eating, they are closely supervised especially if there are known allergens around. Whether at friends houses, parties, the grocery store, or home the ratio of adults to children is rarely more than 6 to 1 for most families. But at school during lunch time the ratio is often more like 120:1, at least around here. In all our schools the students eat in the classroom without the teacher. An older student or 2 supervises in the youngest classes and there are 4-5 adults who wander from class to class checking on things. While there are a number of other adults in the school, this is the teachers break time and they are not required to be in the classroom, but even if they are, that would still make a ratio of 30:1 which is pretty high.

I dont necessarily agree with the banning of foods in schools, but I can definitely see why they do it. It is just too hard to keep all students from moving around while eating, keep all food on the table or desk, etc. And often the classrooms are pretty messy after lunch with dropped food and greasy desks. All of those things can be dangerous for a child with allergies.

IMO, school lunchtime, especially for littles, is not comparable to eating in most other places.

Joined: 01/06/03
Posts: 1175

"ftmom" wrote:

I think the issue is that 'in general' any other place where your child is eating, they are closely supervised especially if there are known allergens around. Whether at friends houses, parties, the grocery store, or home the ratio of adults to children is rarely more than 6 to 1 for most families. But at school during lunch time the ratio is often more like 120:1, at least around here. In all our schools the students eat in the classroom without the teacher. An older student or 2 supervises in the youngest classes and there are 4-5 adults who wander from class to class checking on things. While there are a number of other adults in the school, this is the teachers break time and they are not required to be in the classroom, but even if they are, that would still make a ratio of 30:1 which is pretty high.

I dont necessarily agree with the banning of foods in schools, but I can definitely see why they do it. It is just too hard to keep all students from moving around while eating, keep all food on the table or desk, etc. And often the classrooms are pretty messy after lunch with dropped food and greasy desks. All of those things can be dangerous for a child with allergies.

IMO, school lunchtime, especially for littles, is not comparable to eating in most other places.

This is all true.

I do lunch supervision at my children's schools... usually we're each in one classroom of the primary classrooms but sometimes due to one of us being away, we have to go back and forth between two classrooms. Sometimes there is a couple of the grade 6 students in the room to "help" (... "help" is debatable sometimes ;)) or sometimes there may be an EA in there due to a specific student... but for the most part it's me and them. And even though the rules are they are to stay in their seat/spot and not share food and so on... there's definitely movement and touching going on even with constant reminders/etc. It's not as easy as it sounds to keep their spaces from being "contaminated" by allergens. We have a couple students who have gluten/wheat allergies... we don't ban wheat but this is the first year they have been permitted to sit at a table with the other children vs sitting alone... they have a placemat in an attempt to keep their space free of contaminates... but that is an ingested allergen and not going to cause them to go into anaphylaxis. It's not so easy to do that with peanut butter being that it can be airborne... so much easier for all involved to just not allow it.

ange84's picture
Joined: 12/28/09
Posts: 6564

I don't see the point in banning a substitute, but it is up to the school if they do or not. I know as a kid I wouldn't eat my sandwhiches if they had been in my lunch box and were hot, but that went for all types including spreads like peanut butter and vegemite. These days schools provide fridges in the classrooms for lunches here which helps.

Joined: 01/06/03
Posts: 1175

"ange84" wrote:

These days schools provide fridges in the classrooms for lunches here which helps.

That would be awesome. Wish they did that here... but maybe they think it's cold enough here most the winter Wink LOL But alas... no fridges or microwave access for the kids (in elementary school... high school has cafeterias and microwaves).

ange84's picture
Joined: 12/28/09
Posts: 6564

Not sure if they have microwave access here, but in summer it is usually rare to have a day much below 30 celcius so the fridges are wonderful to have for the kids.

Joined: 01/06/03
Posts: 1175

"ange84" wrote:

Not sure if they have microwave access here, but in summer it is usually rare to have a day much below 30 celcius so the fridges are wonderful to have for the kids.

Usually by the time we get to the extremely hot temps the kids are on Summer holidays... we go from September until the end of June... we just hope parents put icepacks in the lunches (even all year) to keep the cold stuff chilled... most do.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3189

"ftmom" wrote:

I think the issue is that 'in general' any other place where your child is eating, they are closely supervised especially if there are known allergens around. Whether at friends houses, parties, the grocery store, or home the ratio of adults to children is rarely more than 6 to 1 for most families. But at school during lunch time the ratio is often more like 120:1, at least around here. In all our schools the students eat in the classroom without the teacher. An older student or 2 supervises in the youngest classes and there are 4-5 adults who wander from class to class checking on things. While there are a number of other adults in the school, this is the teachers break time and they are not required to be in the classroom, but even if they are, that would still make a ratio of 30:1 which is pretty high.

I dont necessarily agree with the banning of foods in schools, but I can definitely see why they do it. It is just too hard to keep all students from moving around while eating, keep all food on the table or desk, etc. And often the classrooms are pretty messy after lunch with dropped food and greasy desks. All of those things can be dangerous for a child with allergies.

IMO, school lunchtime, especially for littles, is not comparable to eating in most other places.

Not trying to be a jerk. But....how about airplanes? Public transportation? If touching someone who touched peanuts or coming in contact with something airborne is that dangerous, how on earth do you deal with the world at large? You can't protect you kid from brushing up against someone in a movie theater line for example. Amusement park. How about playgrounds?

I know there are very, very real dangers. But there is also a lot of hype. I find it hard to sort through.

culturedmom's picture
Joined: 09/30/06
Posts: 1131

"freddieflounder101" wrote:

Not trying to be a jerk. But....how about airplanes? Public transportation? If touching someone who touched peanuts or coming in contact with something airborne is that dangerous, how on earth do you deal with the world at large? You can't protect you kid from brushing up against someone in a movie theater line for example. Amusement park. How about playgrounds?

I know there are very, very real dangers. But there is also a lot of hype. I find it hard to sort through.

See I have wondered the same thing.

KimPossible's picture
Joined: 05/24/06
Posts: 3317

My niece has the severe peanut allergy issue. Ingesting it would kill her. Having it airborne, especially in an enclosed area would slowly kill her, but there would be time to do something about it.

Very few kids would die nearly instantaneously from airborne exposure.

These kids can function in the world with extra precaution. Its very scary for a parent and for the child, but the liklihood of them dying from confusion because they go to school with kids who bring peanut butter substitutes is ridiculously low.

This is over the top. I would totally object. I personally don't agree with peanut butter bans either...so obviously i don't agree with this.

TyrantOfTheWeek's picture
Joined: 12/26/05
Posts: 1147

Soon, the kids will be forced to ingest "lunch capsules" or freeze dried astronaut food.

Rivergallery's picture
Joined: 05/23/03
Posts: 1301

"Princess&ThePea" wrote:

This is all true.

I do lunch supervision at my children's schools... usually we're each in one classroom of the primary classrooms but sometimes due to one of us being away, we have to go back and forth between two classrooms. Sometimes there is a couple of the grade 6 students in the room to "help" (... "help" is debatable sometimes ;)) or sometimes there may be an EA in there due to a specific student... but for the most part it's me and them. And even though the rules are they are to stay in their seat/spot and not share food and so on... there's definitely movement and touching going on even with constant reminders/etc. It's not as easy as it sounds to keep their spaces from being "contaminated" by allergens. We have a couple students who have gluten/wheat allergies... we don't ban wheat but this is the first year they have been permitted to sit at a table with the other children vs sitting alone... they have a placemat in an attempt to keep their space free of contaminates... but that is an ingested allergen and not going to cause them to go into anaphylaxis. It's not so easy to do that with peanut butter being that it can be airborne... so much easier for all involved to just not allow it.

Just a note wheat allergy can also be topical.