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Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

Culinary no-no #260

Culinary no-no's



July 2008.

The Milwaukee Brewers open a 4-game series against the Cardinals in St. Louis. Busch Stadium offered what could be a baseball promotion first……designating an entire section a peanut-free zone. Only fans with peanut allergies and their families were allowed in Section 328 in the outfield down the first base line, just behind the foul pole.

Peanut-free zones at the ballpark was a topic on my program a few days later as I filled in for Mark Belling on Newstalk 1130 WISN. Comments ran the gamut.

Some viewed the promotion as a wonderful, thoughtful idea. Others wondered where you draw the line on special accommodations for fans.

Several callers made the valid argument that parents are taking a serious risk bringing their peanut allergy suffering kids to the stadium because in order to get to their seats, they have to pass many areas where peanuts are still being sold, consumed, and dropped on the ground.

Consider also the peanut eating seats that are adjacent and very close to the peanut-free zone. And how about fans, unaware of the special promotion, who toss shells that end up in the zone that prohibits peanuts?

I’m not sure if the Cardinals have ever brought this promotion back.

Now it’s 2012. Ammaria Johnson, a 7-year-old Virginia girl died after an allergic reaction at school. Police say the girl was given a peanut by another child unaware of her allergy.

Johnson ate the peanut on the playground at her school during recess. Then she realized she had hives and was suffering from shortness of breath, and was taken to the school clinic after she approached a teacher.

While in the clinic, Johnson stopped breathing. Emergency crews rushed to the scene to find her in cardiac arrest. She could not be saved.

Against the backdrop of the Johnson death, a new product has hit the market.



Parents are up in arms.

Jodi Loftis, of Albuquerque, N.M., typically instructs her daughter of certain snacks that might contain peanut ingredients.  Along comes a new variety of Cheerios, a cereal most parents regard as safe as compared to Cap’n Crunch.

“Even as a 9 year-old, you can continue to tell her everyday, every week,  make sure you don’t share any foods with anybody,” Loftis said, “but sometimes it’s hard for a 9 year-old to remember that.”

Suddenly, all eyes are on the new version of Cheerios. Pennsylvania mom and allergy safety advocate Gina Clowes said, “Parents are very very scared. It just brings to light the reality of food allergies,”

Clowes, who operates the online support group and chairs the national advocacy committee of the Food Allergy Initiative, claims in just the past two weeks, she’s heard from 60 parents deeply concerned about…


Clowes said that within the last two weeks, she’s heard from some 60 parents worried about the new Cheerios.

The worry has boiled over into some suggesting Peanut Butter Cheerios be taken off supermarket shelves completely.

I often check into the website, The Stir for comic relief. Liberal stay at home moms are the contributors whose columns are, at a minimum, bizarre, crazy, and outrageous.

Jacqueline Burt is one of the writers. She weighs on the entire peanut allergy/Peanut Butter Cheerio debate with a typical lefty knee-jerk reaction:

General Mills, a private company, should be barred from manufacturing Peanut Butter Cheerios.

Burt wants Peanut Butter Cheerios and has written, emphasis hers:

Some kids are so severely allergic to peanuts that one Peanut Butter Cheerio could kill them before anybody realized what was happening. Peanut Butter Cheerios pose a significantly higher risk to toddlers, in my opinion. Think about it: Little kids take Cheerios with them everywhere. To the park. To the children's section at Barnes & Noble. To the zoo. On the train. Your toddler is screaming in the stroller? Here, have a bag of Cheerios. The waiter is taking forever to bring your family's lunch order? Shhh, have some Cheerios for now.

My point is this: Kids are messy eaters, and because they take Cheerios everywhere, that means stray Cheerios are everywhere kids go. Let's say your severely peanut-allergic 2-year-old spies a Cheerio on the bench at the playground. She wouldn't think twice before popping it in her mouth: Mommy gives me these!

Personally, I don't think the benefit of adding another variety of Cheerios to grocery store shelves is worth risking more kids' lives.”

Disagree with Burt? How dare you.  She's quite emotional when she writes:

If you don't have a kid who's allergic to peanuts, the uproar over General Mills' new Peanut Butter Cheerios might seem like the latest in a long string of attempts to demonize what's been a staple in American pantries for decades. Well, let me tell you something. You're wrong, and the only reason why you have the luxury to be wrong is because you, again, don't have a kid who's allergic to peanuts.

I do have a kid who's allergic to peanuts. My son, Julian. And while at this age, he's pretty well-trained (knock wood) to ask if a cookie or a brownie or a sandwich or whatever else contains peanuts before he takes a bite, he probably wouldn't think to check if one of his buddies passed a plastic baggie of Peanut Butter Cheerios his way.”

So, according to Burt, Peanut Butter Cheerios should be banned.

Burt is passionate about her views. I can respect that.

But I, too, am passionate about what I believe in.

I get nervous, apprehensive and downright skeptical when I hear the “b” word, “ban.” The concept is foolish, not to mention selfish.

A better solution could be the suggestion that states be urged  to enact laws requiring schools stock EpiPens like bandages and other first-aid supplies for any student or staff member in an anaphylactic emergency.

Better yet would be local school districts taking steps to ensure this potentially life-saving equipment be available on school property.

And even better yet, with all due empathy to parents of students with allergies: better parenting.  The answer is not to punish or ban allergy-free students from peanuts or peanut products.

Finally, not to be forgotten in the hysteria over this debate is the following.

General Mills denies there’s any cross contamination risk.

And let’s consider this from ABC News:

Dr. Wesley Burks, a leading expert in food allergens at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that while parents should take precautions to ensure their children don’t eat foods they’re allergic to, it’s important to note that life-threatening allergic reactions don’t happen as a result of smelling, touching or being in the same room with the food in question. ‘For a child to have truly life-threatening, life-ending reaction, they have to ingest the food,’ he said. The idea that other forms of food contact could lead to death, Burks said, is a common misconception among parents.”

We don’t live in a bubble. Mom, Dad, if you fear Peanut Cheerios that much, do what you must. But don’t suggest we take them away from other kids.


Speaking of The Stir...

Is it ever appropriate to boo the First Lady?

I like to eat most anything. My wife likes to eat most anything.  Thank goodness.

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