Getting the truth out about peanut allergies

Getting the truth out about peanut allergies

Who do American moms trust the most when it comes to hot-button food issues like pesticides, genetic modifications and additives, and allergies? According to a recent survey of 1,000 moms, they are more likely to trust “mommy bloggers” than government sources, medical sites and corporate sources.

In case you’re not familiar, mommy bloggers are comprised mostly of stay-at-home moms who focus their Internet activities on things like food, product reviews, personal narratives and a variety of other topics.

Citing the study, National Peanut Board President and CEO Bob Parker recently remarked that his organization was working with bloggers to get the word out about the nutritional value of peanuts. “We’re monitoring what they are writing and also sharing information so that they will be distributing factual information,” said Parker during the recent Georgia Peanut Tour.

It’s a smart strategy, especially considering that it’s impossible to dictate whom people should trust when it comes to their information sources. And in today’s information age, anyone can claim to be an authority on any subject, regardless of their professional training in the field.

As for peanuts, there’s a good foundation in place because most consumers believe they are a good source of protein. The problem comes in convincing the masses that peanut allergies are not as prevalent as they may seem to the misinformed.

“Our board has begun to work to educate and inform consumers about peanut allergies and about their prevalence,” says Parker. “We’re going to try and clear up the confusion about peanut allergies and encourage people to get the proper diagnosis.”

The first thing the board did before planning this initiative was to conduct a consumer survey to see what people thought, he says. “The actual prevalence of peanut allergy in the United States is right around 1 percent. Most people seem to think it’s at epidemic proportions, and our survey showed that consumers believe that 24 percent of people are afflicted with a peanut allergy.”

There’s a common perception that it’s a much bigger problem than it actually is, say Parker. “We’re certainly not downplaying the problem—if you’re part of that 1 percent, then it’s a major problem for you. But we’re reacting as if 24 percent of people have a peanut allergy, and that’s not true.”

The survey also asked consumers if anyone in their household had a good allergy. If they answered “yes,” they then would proceed to another level of questions about how they were diagnosed.

“A high percentage and respondents say they were diagnosed by a family member, by a friend, a relative, or by themselves. They were not diagnosed by an allergist, or even a physician. So that’s something we’ve got to work on,” according to Parker.

The National Peanut Board currently is funding research to help accurately diagnose peanut allergies, he adds. “If you think your child has a food allergy, you’re likely to just avoid the food. We know that around 10 percent of people who have a skin test for food allergies test positive. But the National Institute of Health says about 1 percent of people actually have one.”

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