Peanut ‘Lite’ caused bad reactions
I recently took a "lite" look at peanut allergies and received some of the most angry, venomous letters I have gotten for some time.
It is possible to write about serious issues in an entertaining way to spur discussion and thought, but peanut allergies apparently are immune to such treatment.
I have a friend whose son has a peanut allergy so I know it's no laughing matter. Even minor exposure to peanuts or peanut-laced products can cause serious breathing difficulties and sometimes even death.
But my main point in even broaching the subject was to ask a question a lot of people are asking: Why have peanuts suddenly become a huge health danger? Generations of kids grew up eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches without large-scale allergic reactions. Why have peanuts turned deadly in just the last decade? It seems to me that if scientists or doctors can answer that question, a lot of fear and worry can be avoided. And lives can be saved.
The lighthearted tone of my column seems to be what really enraged readers who have some personal connection to peanut allergies. While I think many of them overreacted to a humor column that they mistook as a news "article," I believe they still have a right to their opinions. I had my say and so, in the interest of fairness, here are some of their reactions:
» "Your ignorance is showing. Cheap peanut protein is being added to many food items that were peanut free when you were a kid. I am 56 years old and was diagnosed with a life-threatening peanut allergy a year ago. What caused it? Who knows. But be aware that you, too, could become peanut allergic." -- Adele Earnshaw, Sedona, Ariz.
» "Wow, only 200 people are dying of peanut allergies each year? Maybe this is not a big enough number for you to stop making fun of peanut allergies." -- Manuela Vasque
» "Am I to assume you apply your same 'humor' to children with cancer, congenital deformities, etc.? Perhaps you should re-examine your 'humor' before printing false information and have a healthy respect for children and their illnesses." -- C. Rydberg
» "I understand it's your job to be funny -- I'm often amused by intelligent comedy. The problem with your article is that it's not intelligent and it's not comedy." -- Jeffrey Lane
» "I understand you are trying to convey humor in your article. I am, however, deeply disturbed that you would print something that has so little facts. You are in tune to get many, many bashings for this one." -- Mandi Babineaux, Youngsville, La.
» "Your column about peanuts was unbelievably insensitive and ignorant. Since when is it acceptable to mock and make fun of a serious medical condition?" -- Patty Reich
» "As the parent of a child with a life-threatening peanut allergy, I find your article insulting and offensive." -- Jayne Shaw
» "Your article was disgraceful and disrespectful to all the people who have lost their lives from peanut allergies." -- Robin Petrovsky
"You are an idiot. Shame on you. It's not just that your kind of banter is politically incorrect; you've spread ignorance about a serious, life-threatening condition." -- Bonnie Rush
» "I just wanted to let you know that not everyone with a peanut allergy has lost their sense of humor. I actually appreciate (occasionally) seeing an article about food allergies that is written with humor. It's the only way people not living with it will read about it. I hope you don't get many more of those nasty e-mails." -- Anna Marie
Charles Memminger, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org