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Why Did Peanut Butter Become An Allergen?

peanut butter sandwich

I wondered why when I was growing up I had never heard of peanut allergies. Turns out, it is a fairly recent phenomenon.

I can remember eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch while growing up. Hell, I still eat them. Now, as I try to watch my sugar intake, I enjoy peanut butter on apple slices. It’s a healthy indulgence. But, for those with peanut allergies, it’s a life threatening allergen. I had never heard of peanut allergies until one of my coworkers told me about her son. Peanuts, and other foods such as sesame and tree nuts, can cause anaphylaxis. The lips and tongue swell, the throat gets itchy and then closes, and it’s basically 15 minutes until the sufferer goes into anaphylactic shock and sudden death. In that time, an Epi-Pen™ can be used to rescue the triggered child before the allergic reaction progresses too far. How scary is that for a parent?

Overhead view of peanut butter on bread with red crayon warning against peanuts which are a dangerous allergen for many children and adults.

What’s worse for a child with a peanut allergy is that he/she doesn’t have to consume the peanut or peanut butter to trigger the symptoms. Any contact with someone who has eaten peanut butter can set off the deadly chain reaction. This is why schools do not allow children to bring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. Or anything that is made with peanuts for that matter. The trigger is THAT strong.

I wondered why when I was growing up I had never heard of peanut allergies. Turns out, it is a fairly recent phenomenon. Peanut allergies became prevalent in the late 1990s increasing over the next few years by 50 percent. Now, one in thirteen children has some sort of food allergy. But, peanut allergies seem to get the most attention. Maybe it’s because we think of peanut butter as a common food consumed by children. That it’s kids who are presenting with peanut allergies causes me to wonder where this allergy originated and why it’s seemingly a mini-epidemic.

I have been researching it all day and I couldn’t find the exact root cause. It seems it’s a contentious issue. There are various theories and opinions about what causes peanut allergy.

I will present some of the theories here in the hope that we become more conscious of what we are eating and why some of us find common foods life threatening. And, also so that you can become more empathic to those who suffer from severe allergies such as peanut allergy. The inconvenience of watching that your child doesn’t bring nuts to school is nothing when you remember that you are saving a child a life-threatening reaction.

One reputable medical site says that peanut allergies are on the rise because we’re not exposed to as much dirt as previous generations because we weren’t raised on a farm. That one really made me LOL because I wasn’t raised on a farm and no one in my large family—including grandkids—has a peanut allergy. So much for reputable sources.

Another theory is that kids have been prevented from exposure to any germs at all due to the use of hand sanitizers and the overuse of antibiotics. Peanut allergy sufferers aren’t exposed to any dirt and antibiotic use has killed off their natural defenses. That sounds a lot to me like the farm exposure theory. Or what I like to call the “Dirt is good for you” theory. Especially, exposure to dirt early on in a child’s life. For a few years, while the peanut allergy in children exploded in numbers, doctors advised mothers-to-be to avoid peanuts while pregnant and to introduce their child to peanuts later on, after three years of age. But, that didn’t work, and then the opposite advice was given to pregnant women. Eat peanuts or peanut butter while pregnant and introduce peanut butter to your child early on. Peanut allergies continued to grow in numbers and they are often accompanied by asthma, another life-threatening trigger.

There’s a theory that the peanut oil, once used as an adjuvant in vaccines, is the culprit. But, as peanut oil is no longer used as an adjuvant, it doesn’t explain the continued rise of peanut allergy. Then there is the food we eat. By the time any flesh foods hit our plates, it’s been given antibiotics and hormones while alive, and sterilized, and dyed after slaughter. That doesn’t include the other foods children consume. Most crops that are not organic are Roundup™-ready. Fertilizers, pesticides, preservatives, are the norm for most grains, fruits, and vegetables. And, I’m not even going to get into what gets INTO all the processed food that comes in a box, a bag, or in a To Go container. We really don’t know what drugs, chemicals, and toxins we are eating.

As peanuts grow in the ground, we could place the blame on contaminated soil. Peanut crops are rotated with cotton crops. That means the soil that peanuts grow in is full of glyphosates. And, fungicides. And, pesticides. The USDA found that peanuts contained eight different pesticides when studied. Non organic peanut butter is also made using sugar and hydrogenated oils. Remember the latter from last week’s blog? Hydrogenated oils are the unhealthy fats that are causing America’s diabesity. So, for those of you who not allergic, pick up the organic peanut butter.

Of course, drug companies are looking to find a treatment for peanut allergy. The money will not flow if we eradicate the cause of the epidemic. So, the price of the Epi-pen™ and inhalers will continue to skyrocket. All because our environment is full of toxins.

I wanted to write about peanut allergies and the mystery as to the exact cause because I know children who suffer from this and other allergies. Suffer, in that they could have a fatal reaction to a close encounter with a peanut. But, also suffer because they are among the few in their class who cannot tolerate any exposure and therefore no child can enjoy peanuts and or peanut butter at school. So, there’s that “otherness.” Some parents are resentful of these allergic kids, like they and their anxious parents don’t have enough to worry about. Seems sad, but there it is.

I also want readers to start paying attention to what is in our food. Our soil. Our water. Our air. At some point, we have to say ENOUGH is ENOUGH with all these drugs, chemicals, and toxins we are exposed to at every turn. Especially those we ingest unknowingly through our food. I mean, isn’t that why we have a government organization like the USDA? To protect us from these things?

Finally, it’s my hope that this blog raises awareness for peanut allergy sufferers. That it will make people more cognizant that this isn’t an “I don’t like cilantro so I’ll just say I’m allergic so that restaurants won’t include it in my food or on my plate.” No. This is a life-threatening scenario. Imagine that it is your child who has a peanut allergy and an improperly labeled food may contain traces of peanut that could send your child into anaphylaxis. When you think about it like that, you can see that it’s not something to be trifled with. A peanut allergy or any food allergy for that matter could mean life or death to a child. And, that’s something we should all take very seriously.


This article was reprinted with permission. It was originally published by Focus for Health.

15 Responses to Why Did Peanut Butter Become An Allergen?

  1. Geoff Reply

    May 12, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    I have often wondered if it was the aflatoxin associated with the peanut. Did a study decades ago relating to aflatoxins in corn stored in silos. The first year there was around 10% contamination, but by the fifth year 100%. Then I started to hear about corn allergies.
    There is some research that indicates food related allergies could be controlled using peptides.

  2. Dr B Reply

    May 11, 2017 at 7:00 am

    In all likelihood peanut oil is still used in current vaccines in contradiction to the article, however labeled as adjuvant 65 or not labeled at all. The FDA has allowed a loophole because peanut oil was GRAS even though it was never tested for safety but enhanced the reaction created by aluminum. It is highly likely that many of the new vaccines containing aluminum still have peanut oil to create a stronger reaction, it’s just not labeled because the FDA allowed this. Peanut allergies are only found in the vaccinated population, not in the unvaccinated, this is not a coincidence. This is not to be insensitive to those with allergies, but we need to wake up and make better decisions for our kids.

    • Dr. Patrick Gorman Reply

      May 13, 2017 at 6:21 am

      I developed my allergy to peanuts within 2 weeks of receiving my MMR vaccine as a child. Ever since, I go into anaphylaxis if I come in contact with peanuts of any kind. Now that I am a doctor myself and treat many patients a day I have found that many others whom have the life threatening allergy trace it back to one of the most controversial vaccines in history; the MMR vaccine.

  3. devon Reply

    May 10, 2017 at 5:46 am

    I have a daughter with a severe peanut allergy. We can’t even take her to the grocery stores that have open bins of nuts. She blows up in hives and it is very alarming. Of course I would love to know the cause… I ate pb throughout my pregnancy and nursing for a year, she never reacted until 2yrs when we gave her a taste. My other 2 kids do not have allergies and I avoided peanut products(?). Recently I read a study about Castor Oil being highly cross-reactive with the protein in peanuts that causes anaphylaxis. The vit. K shot given to newborns contains castor oil (per the package insert). Makes me wonder if there is a correlation, along with other things such as chemicals in our food, water, products. I know that this horrible allergy has helped guide our family into a healthier organic lifestyle. I would never wish a peanut allergy on anyone (my daughter is also egg allergic).

  4. Jennifer Reply

    May 10, 2017 at 5:43 am

    Could it be something in the peanut crop, like mold … or something that is sprayed on the crops?

  5. K Trudeau Reply

    May 8, 2017 at 10:27 am

    Thank you for posting this Very important information …as my child has several allergies including peanuts.

  6. Barbara Reply

    May 8, 2017 at 7:51 am

    I gave my granddaughter a peanut butter sandwich and within a short time she started itching and saying that her throat felt funny. I was in panic mode watching her closely even though she had consumed peanut butter often as a nine year old and never had a problem. After about an hour, she started feeling normal again. I was surprised when her mom told me she gave her some peanut butter several weeks later and suffered no ill effects. I thought back to the day this happened and remembered that their house had been sprayed for bugs the previous evening that I was there. I began to wonder if there was toxic overload from the pesticide and the peanut butter was the last straw? I would like to know if when there is a peanut allergy in the home, is the house regularly sprayed. I have a feeling this might be an important link, in addition to everything you mention. I know people who have their houses sprayed once a month! Do we may need to think twice before we bring poisons into our houses?

    • Cyria Reply

      May 9, 2017 at 10:48 am

      Barbara, does the child have a thyroid issue? I don’t eat peanut butter due to it making me have the same reaction.

    • Harve Reply

      May 9, 2017 at 4:06 pm

      I think you’re on the right track. Since toxins such as glyphosate, which is the most pervasive, can bio-accumulate and damages the good bacteria in her gut, your grandchild’s immune system must have been compromised (toxic overload) hence the symptoms that occurred. The problem is if your grandchild doesn’t eliminate the cause of the problem the symptoms can recur. As you may already know, it’s important for her to eat organic as much as possible . A naturopathic doctor may be able to help her if they have a good detoxification program. Removing the toxins, including heavy metals, from her body may be a good solution.

    • devon Reply

      May 10, 2017 at 5:48 am

      We have not had our home sprayed for pests, but my daughter is severely allergic to peanuts and eggs.

  7. bob Reply

    May 8, 2017 at 4:39 am

    I had also heard a theory where undigested proteins from leaky gut (caused by glyphosate ingestion that happens with most non organic foods) get into the bloodstream and then the child gets a vaccine. The undigested proteins are seen by the immune system as another foreign invader along with the vaccine ingredients and develop anti-bodies to these proteins. Thus, your body now reacts to the food whenever it’s consumed. That’s why some people are able to slowly wean themselves back to eating them over long periods of time.

  8. Marie T Reply

    May 8, 2017 at 1:25 am

    Not just anaphylatic allergies, but all allergies and in fact all auto-immune diseases are on the rise. Look up “leaky gut syndrome” – it all starts in the gut and from early on.

    • Harve Reply

      May 9, 2017 at 3:26 pm

      I agree. Glyphosate which is sprayed on GMO peanuts may well be the cause of the peanut allergy problem. Since the microbiome is negatively affected by glyphosate it becomes more of a connection between glyphosate and peanut allergies. Our public health agencies should be studying the affect that glyphosate has on all autoimmune diseases as well as allergies. We already know it causes cancer. The problem is glyphosate is in 85% of our food! Listen to Dr. Stephanie Seneff about the negative impact that glyphosate has on our microbiome. Parents who have kids with these allergies may want to contact a good naturopathic doctor. Have them test their urine for glyphosate. If it is found , which is highly likely, a detoxiification program may be suggested.

  9. André Angelantoni Reply

    May 7, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    Peanut oil may not be used as an adjuvant but it may still be used as an emulsifier. In that case, it doesn’t have to be listed because it isn’t considered an active ingredient. Only active ingredients must be listed.

    Israel doesn’t have as many peanut allergies but it does have sesame allergies — and they have a native sesame seed industry. The likely reason there is that they use sesame oil as an emulsifier instead of peanut oil.

    This patent is for an adjuvant but the oil is not the active part, it is just a carrier and is preferred. Could it be preferred for other purposes, too?

    “The specific oil employed in the novel adjuvant composition of the invention is not critical. Any physiologically acceptable injectable oil or mixtures thereof including those oils which satisfy the specifications of the U.S. Pharmacopeia or National Formulary may be utilized in the practice of the invention. Representative members include peanut oil, safflower oil, soya bean oil, cottonseed oil, mineral oils of a pharmaceutical grade such as light liquid paraffin and light mineral oil, chaulmoogra oil, corn oil, persic oil, olive oil, sesame oil, almond oil, castor oil, squalane, isopropyl myristate and coconut oil.

    ***Of particular preference are peanut oil and highly purified light mineral oil.***”

    Water-in-oil adjuvant composition
    https://patents.google.com/patent/US4069313A/en

    In this meningococcal vaccine patent, any number of oils can be used for the adjuvant, including peanut:

    “The invention can be used with oils such as those from an animal (such as fish) or vegetable source. Sources for vegetable oils include nuts, seeds and grains. Peanut oil, soybean oil, coconut oil, and olive oil, the most commonly available, exemplify the nut oils.”

    https://www.google.com/patents/EP2462949A2?cl=en

    Could it be an unlisted ingredient? We’ll never know if they are telling the truth because the exact recipe is a trade secret and is protected by several layers of laws.

    • angel Reply

      May 10, 2017 at 11:39 pm

      Thank-you for sharing that information.
      Interesting that they’re using a variety of oils in the vaccines. I developed a peanut allergy in my 30’s and I did receive a Hep B Vaccine around that time. I’ve also somehow developed an intolerance to Almonds and sunflower seeds. Mainly I break out all over with eczema like rash esp on hands. It’s a nightmare. A lot of the nuts and seeds are processed together so those of us with allergies have to be very careful where we buy them. I happen to be ok with Walnuts so I buy them from a Walnut only Farm.

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