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Mar. 23, 2011

The Fall of the Peanut

by Sam Flatow

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I speak to you now of a threat that was once a boon. I speak to you now of one of humanity’s oldest allies — that now turns on us from within.

I speak to you now of peanuts.

“Peanuts?” You say. “But I LOVE peanuts! They are wonderful salted, or when mashed into a creamy spread!” To this undeniably delicious point I respond that the peanut has obfuscated its true form twice before ANY hint of jelly-sandwiches. This deceitful creature masquerades as both a pea and a nut, when in fact, I must remind you, it is neither! What is it trying to hide? The truth? The truth that it’s a bean!?

For too long have “peanuts” terrorized our schools, invaded our groceries, and helped to smuggle drugs into our homes. Worst of all, they endanger the lives of our children. Edgewater Public School in Edgewater, Florida has a student so allergic to peanuts that, “touching nuts or nut products irritates the girl’s skin. Smelling them can trigger an asthma attack. Eating them carries the danger of causing hives and breathing problems that could be deadly if not treated quickly….” Although there are many “nut-free school zones”, hers is not one of them. Therefore extreme safety precautions must be taken, including having her fellow students wash their hands and mouths twice a day so as to guarantee that she has no contact with the deadly legume. There was even a visit to the school from a peanut-sniffing dog.

And the worst part is that she’s the center of a massive controversy involving parents protesting the 20 minutes it takes to wash their children’s hands. We should not be divided. No! That is just what the peanuts want us to do! Squabble amongst ourselves. But don’t worry little girl, a new weapon in the war against peanuts is here, and that weapon is peanuts!

A recent allergy treatment trial at the University of Cambridge has just ended, concluding that by slowly introducing small quantities of peanuts into the diet of patients with severe peanut allergies, those patients were able to tolerate consuming several whole peanuts a day. The best part was the success ratio. While only a small study, 21 of the 22 children had some amount of success, with only 1 student dropping out of the study early. Many patients saw an increase of peanut tolerance “1000-fold” and no major mishaps occurred (still, don’t try this at home. This study was conducted by peanut professionals).

Our necessary course of action is clear. We must attack the ever-present peanut threat directly using our cutting-edge peanut technology. We must fight peanuts with peanuts. To defeat the peanut, we must love the peanut. Was that its whole plan all along, to act as a poison unless regular exposure is granted? We must be wary how much contact our children have with peanuts, because it could be a trap. Who knows the darkness that hides in the minds of peanuts? Nobody. Except for other peanuts. And quite frankly, I don’t trust them either.

About Sam Flatow

Sam is an assistant producer at Science Friday where he prepares the tasty SciFri snacks and blogs about smart cephalopods and zombie ants.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Science Friday® and SciFri® are registered service marks of Science Friday, Inc. Site design by Pentagram; engineering by Mediapolis.

 

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