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.
Why? Because they don't look all that different from regular Cheerios. (What's ironic is that Cheerios are one of the few snack foods most parents consider "safe.")
Fortunately for us, Julian's reactions to peanuts so far have been the kind that a good dose of Benadryl can treat; we've only had to run to the Emergency Room once. (Of course we have an Epi-Pen, just in case, because you never really know if your kid's allergy is going to get better or worse.)
But we're among the lucky ones. Some kids are so severely allergic to peanuts that one Peanut Butter Cheerio could kill them before anybody realized what was happening. Like what happened to 7-year-old Ammaria Johnson just last week: The little girl took a bite of her friend's snack on the schoolyard and died of cardiac arrest within minutes. Minutes!
And that's a grade-school kid. 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!
General Mills says cross-contamination isn't a possibility, which is good to know; they also point out that other Cheerios flavors do contain nuts (Honey Nut, Banana Nut, and Oat Clusters). But there are way more kids with life-threatening allergies to peanuts than almonds, walnuts, or any other kind of nut. So that argument doesn't make a difference.
Personally, I don't think the benefit of adding another variety of Cheerios to grocery store shelves is worth risking more kids' lives.
Do you think Peanut Butter Cheerios are dangerous? Should they be banned?
Image via Gramody/Flickr