If a child is deathly allergic to, say, peanuts, it's understandable when a parent requests their school consider banning peanut-butter fare from the menu. But where do we draw the line for anti-allergy precautions? How about cutting down oak trees to get rid of fallen acorns?
That's right: Canadian mother Donna Giustizia worries that acorns are posing a serious threat to nut-allergic children – including her own – who attend St. Stephen Catholic Elementary School in Vaughn, Ontario.
Young oak trees on a surrounding property, owned by the city of Vaughn, are dropping acorns on school grounds. And so Giustizia is leading a crusade to remove the trees.
"A false sense of security is putting a sign on the door that says 'nut-free,' and there's nuts all over the place," said Giustizia in an article from The Record.
Among children, tree nuts are one of the most common food allergies, alongside milk, shellfish and peanuts. The number of children allergic to tree nuts and peanuts has tripled in the last decade.
Some experts claim this rise in allergies comes from hyper-hygienic lifestyles that may leave children with weak immune systems more likely to attack harmless invaders like pollen and foods, like nuts and … acorns?
A favorite among North American squirrels, acorns are encased in a hard shell, have bitter-tasting flesh and haven't been a food staple in this country for centuries. They also pose little threat to those who are allergic to tree nuts.
"There is no information in the literature that suggests that individuals with a nut allergy should avoid skin contact with acorns or pine cones," says Lynn Christie of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.
Kids who have nut allergies are likely aware of their situation and know to stay away from edible nuts – in or out of the cafeteria. One also would hope they aren't going around chomping down on acorns at recess.
This begs the question: Is any child's health really in danger because of fallen acorns? Unless it was on a dare or part of some stupid stunt, I certainly can't remember anyone from my childhood playgrounds trying to eat a dirty acorn off the ground.
Giustizia's allergy fight may be grounded in good intentions, but calling for the chopping down of oak trees is not helping the bigger cause. It just makes her look a bit, well, nuts.