Mark Fraunfelder’s Logical Fallacies On Nut Allergies — And the Helpful Censors at Boing! Boing!

The British Medical Journal recently published a piece arguing that the concern over nut allergies in Western society has gotten to the point where it more closely resembles a mass hysteria rather than a legitimate health concern. The claim is not that there are not people with extremely severe allergies to nuts, but rather that from that point there is a wide ranging exaggeration of the risk of such allergies and a corresponding overreaction in efforts to protect people with those allergies.

Joel Stein wrote an op-ed for the LA Times referencing the BMJ article which has the very unhelpful title, Nut allergies — a Yuppie invention (however, at most newspapers, op-ed columnists do not write headlines, so the headline is probably due to some smart ass editor rather than Stein). The article itself is very clear — echoing the BMJ article, Stein says there are a small number of people who have severe nut allergies but that the absurd overreaction at public schools and elsewhere is really due to a mass hysteria-like condition.

Mark Fraunfelder at Boing! Boing! then chimes in with what is little more than a non-sequitur,

I wonder if he would have written this piece had he witnessed a child go into anaphylactic shock, as my daughter did when she ate a cookie with hidden nuts in it. It was very scary.

If Stein had said there was no such thing as people with severe allergies to nuts, that might be a valid complaint, but that wasn’t Stein’s point at all. This is a bit like someone chiming in every time Boing! Boing! posts about the latest failings of the TSA with “I wonder if they would have written that piece if they’d had a friend who almost died on 9/11. That was very scary.”

And, of course, because this is Boing! Boing!, Mark is free to introduce his daughter as a trump card over science, but commenters on the blog are not free to call him on it.

A poster who claims he is a biologist points out that while he’s sorry to hear about Fraunfelder’s daughters problem, that the issue Stein is raising is a scientific question that you can’t simply dismiss by invoking a single anecdote (and goes on to say the post sounds a little like Jenny McCarthy’s explanation of her anti-vaccination/autism nonsense).

Of course this is what it looks like after the Teresa Nielsen Hayden brigade gets done with it,

Whl ‘m srry bt yr dghtr’s llrgy, Mrk, yr s f hr spcfc cs t nswr Jl’s cs tht sm ppl s thngs tht rn’t thr — wll, t mks y snd lttl lk Jnny McCrthy nd hr ntvccntn/tsm wrrrs. Thr’s scntfc qstn hr tht sn’t ddrssd by th xstnc f spcfc ncdtl css, nd yr drvby n-lnr t th nd f yr pst msss th pnt. Cngrtltn n sng th pwr f lrg nmbrs t mk nc gy’s lf dffclt fr fw wks.

It’s not enough that Mark invoking his daughter in that context is simply a cheap emotional trick to try to shut down debate, but TNH and her minions have to go the rest of the way and censor anyone who calls him out on it.

Well, that’s Boing! Boing! these days.

4 thoughts on “Mark Fraunfelder’s Logical Fallacies On Nut Allergies — And the Helpful Censors at Boing! Boing!”

  1. Are people over-reacting to nut allergies? No. These allergies have become far too common to ignore.

    I have a friend who has a child with a fatal fish allergy. If they serve fish at school, she cannot be anywhere near the kitchen. Driving down the street near a restaurant that is cooking fish can also send this poor child to the emergency room.

    Do you accommodate this child at a public school or do you tell the parent that they will have to home-school?

    Depending on the severity of the nut allergy, a child can react to someone having a peanut candybar in his pocket.

    I found the following statistics on various websites –

    AUSTRALIA: Australia has one of the highest allergic incidence rates in the developed world.
    CANADA: Between 3% and 4% of Canadian adults, and nearly 6 % of children suffer from food allergies
    GERMANY: The prevalence in children is 3 percent to 6 percent, but can be up to 30 percent in high-risk groups, such as children with eczema.
    ITALY: An estimated 6 to 8% of the Italian population has food allergies.
    JAPAN: about 7% of population had some form of food allergy.
    MALAYSIA: about 30% of young children are likely to develop allergic disorders in the first five years of life.
    SWEDEN: one out of 15 children with reported adverse reactions to food.
    US: One in every 17 children under the age of 3 has food allergy.

    And really serious food reactions are not all that rare – “A study in Arch Intern Med 2001 Jan 8;161(1):15-2, Anaphylaxis in the United States: an investigation into its epidemiology, concluded with “The occurrence of anaphylaxis in the US is not as rare as is generally believed. On the basis of our figures, the problem of anaphylaxis may, in fact, affect 1.21% (1.9 million) to 15.04% (40.9 million) of the US population.” PMID 11146694”

    So is this epidemic of food allergies mostly among young children caused by being too clean (hygiene theory – food allergies are unknown in undeveloped countries) in the last 5 years or something else?

    1960 – children received on average one or two vaccines
    1980 – children received 8-9 vaccines
    1990 – children were routinely given 10 vaccines
    2000 – Children now receive 33 vaccinations before they enter school
    2007 – Children are now to receive 48 doses of 14 vaccines by age six and 53-56 doses of 15 or 16 vaccines by age 12.

    Vaccines contain an adjuvant that increases the body’s immune response to the protein in the vaccine. Something that the public and most physicians don’t realize is that the adjuvant also contains a mixture of vegetable and animal oils that have a trace of food protein in them. This is a protected trade secret and does not have to appear on the package insert. The ingredients of many adjuvants can only be found by reading patents. What are these oils? Soy, sesame, peanut, wheat germ, corn, shellfish, fish, etc.

    Can a trace amount of food protein in a vaccine cause food allergy? Yes. This has been known since 1839, when the French physiologist Francois Magendie injected animals to create a food allergy to egg whites.

    The food industry has to label food that may contain trace amounts of peanuts or nuts but the pharmaceutical industry is exempt. Shouldn’t your doctor know if he is injecting a peanut-allergic patient with peanut oil?

  2. I for one agree that there is a total overreaction to the peanut (and other) issues.
    My sister has a banana allergy and survived school (and life) not eating any bananas. Let’s get the person/child and parents taking some responsibility and not having the quiet section of society just continually bowing to the vociferous few. That y children can’t take peanut butter sandwiches to school is pathetic. Why not save this sort of reaction for something that does matter.
    People should stand up for their rights and not be bullied by the few, PC society has gone way way to far…….

  3. It is very difficult for some people to have empathy or concern towards others and will always put themselves first or their needs first. We have become such mean spirited people now a days, some who are just completely hateful. You cannot understand the horror of watching a loved one become ill (or die) from a food allergy and will never know the worry you have that this loved one comes into contact with hateful mean people who just focus on themselves on a daily basis. It has nothing to do with “PC”, it has everything to do with having compassion and concern for others, trying your best to not do harm, and caring. Until you have spent the evening in an ER with a sick child who was accidentally exposed to something she is allergic to, you will never understand. Just stick with what you do best, selfishness.

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