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The Peanut Butter Cheerios controversy

What could be controversial about breakfast cereal?

CheeriosGeneral Mills, maker of several types of Cheerios, has a new variety “Peanut Butter Cheerios.” Again, what’s the problem?

Though the company has several flavors of the cereal, this is the first to contain peanuts. The others – Honey Nut Cheerios, Banana Nut Cheerios and Oat Cluster Cheerios Crunch – are all made with almonds. Peanuts can be the source of one of the most severe allergic reactions.

Last week, Ammaria Johnson, a seven-year-old Virginia girl, died after an allergic reaction at school. Police say she was given a peanut by another child unaware of her allergy. Johnson ate the peanut on the playground of her Chesterfield County elementary school during recess and stopped breathing.

At Issaquah High School, a student went into anaphylactic shock yesterday because the school cafeteria had kiwi on the menu, according to Q13 Fox news. That’s a fruit she’s allergic to, and she’s not just allergic to just eating them, but suffers even when exposed to the air surrounding them. Her parents have asked the school to ban the fruit from its menus.

Eight percent of US children have at least one food allergy. That’s one out of every 13 children. A third of these children have multiple food allergies and 39 percent have experienced a life-threatening reaction, according to the journal Pediatrics.

Moms and dads have been chatting about their concerns on message boards. Some are worried about confusion in their own homes or at daycares. Cheerios are big with the toddler set.

General Mills doesn’t think the parents’ concerns about Peanut Butter Cheerios are legitimate. In an email, the company states the boxes look different and their processors uses “the most stringent allergen control practices in the industry.”

“The box might be different, but the cereal itself is hard to distinguish from the original. This issue is especially troubling to be because Cheerios are so often carted in baggies by toddlers who share them freely,” says Lydia Williams, Seattle parent to a child with peanut allergies.

Is it the company’s responsibility to ensure that kids are protected? And if Peanut Butter Cheerios should be considered dangerous, as some parents are suggesting, what about plain old peanut butter? To respond to that “direct threat” most schools have set up peanut-free lunch tables for kids with severe allergies. A few school districts around the country have considered peanut butter bans.

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