Going nuts over peanut butter

America’s love affair with peanut butter has taken a hammering from a salmonella scare that broke last September and sparked a nationwide recall of peanut products starting in January. But what is it with American kids and peanut butter? President Obama says his seven-year-old daughter Sasha has peanut butter sandwiches “probably three times a week” -- and he lets her? Isn’t this child abuse, even without the risk of food poisoning? How about the risk of peanut butter addiction, not to mention the lack of a balanced diet?

Schools are doing it hard, too. A Pittsburgh area school has had to replace the popular PB and jelly sandwiches (an unthinkable duo to non-Americans) with cheese sandwiches. Cheese! you can hear the youngsters exclaim in disgust. Another is serving up SunButter, a spread made from ground sunflower seeds, which some kids have taken such a liking to they are getting it every day. (There they go again -- every day!) But picky eaters in other schools are rejecting the ersatz PB, and food directors can’t wait to get the real thing back on the canteen menu.

Meanwhile, there’s good news for those who cannot imagine what to put in school lunches without peanut butter. Research published this week shows that a medically supervised daily dose of peanuts may help children with peanut allergies greatly increase their tolerance to the omnipresent nut. Nearly 150 deaths attributed to food allergies each year in the US are caused by peanut allergies, which can be triggered even by other types of food prepared in places where nuts might have been used. This is serious stuff. Maybe it is time for the whole nation to take another look at…cheese.

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