How far can peanut hysteria go?

[Editor’s note: The first two articles listed here are factual and correctly quoted. The others are not.]

Sept. 3, 1998

Washington Post

Headline: “Airlines May Have to Bag the Peanuts”

The Transportation Department has informed airlines that under new disability rules, it must provide “peanut-free buffer zones”–defined as at least three rows–for any passenger who declares in advance a medically documented severe allergy to peanuts.

Sept. 23, 1998

New York Times

Headline: “Growing Number of Schools Ban Peanut Butter as Allergy Threat”

Prodded by parents warning of lethal allergies, by the contentions of some researchers that peanut allergies are on the rise and, not least, by a fear of litigation, growing numbers of public and private schools across the country, including many of New York City’s most selective independent schools, have banned peanut butter from their cafeterias. Others have declared peanut-free zones or set up committees to figure out what to do.

Oct. 10, 1998

Washington Post

Headline: “Congress Declares Capitol Peanut-Free Zone”

Citing complaints by allergy-prone legislators and aides, Congress today banned peanuts and peanut products from the U.S. Capitol and adjacent federal buildings. The bipartisan resolution passed the House on a vote of 429-3 and was approved by voice vote in the Senate. U.S. Capitol police distributed epinephrine syringes throughout the building to protect members of Congress and their staffs against peanut allergy symptoms such as throat constriction and rapid loss of blood pressure.

Oct. 15, 1998

Los Angeles Times

Headline: “Chinese Restaurants Declare Peanut Sauce ‘Peanut-Free’ “

Prompted by widespread concern over peanut-related health risks, the Chinese Restaurant Association of America banned peanuts and peanut oil from all “peanut sauce” served in accredited Chinese restaurants. Restaurants may continue to serve “peanut sauce” in dishes such as Kung Pao Chicken, but that sauce may no longer contain actual peanuts. Restaurant owners who had opposed the ban agreed to support it and to accept random enforcement inspections in exchange for the right to retain the phrase “peanut sauce” in carryout menus.

Oct. 18, 1998

New York Times

Headline: “Peanuts Killed Our Children”

Support groups have sprouted up across America for those whose lives have been shattered by peanuts and peanut-based foods. “This is a place for families to come together and share their grief,” said Douglas French, founder of PNUTTS (People Newly United Through Their Peanut-Related Stress). “Peanuts stole away their sons and daughters, their mothers and fathers. These people never had a voice. … Now they can tell their stories without shame or ridicule.”

Oct. 20, 1998

Boston Globe Editorial Page

Headline: “The Peanut Menace”

Gone are the days of innocently cracking salted shells at the ballpark or spreading a thick “p.b.&j.” at a family picnic. Civic leaders have at last confronted the truth: Peanuts are a menace to the American way of life. Congress should move immediately to prohibit the cultivation, sale, and use of peanuts and their byproducts.

Oct. 23, 1998

Washington Post

Headline: “GOP Declares ‘War on Peanuts’ “

Republican congressional leaders today outlined a plan to eradicate American peanut abuse by the end of the century. Responding to a proposal backed by House Democrats, under which government-funded clinics would distribute cashews to peanut abusers on a transitional basis, Republican leaders in both houses demanded an aggressive interdiction program to “fight peanuts at their source.” Preliminary plans drafted by Senate aides involve napalm strikes in Georgia and South Carolina by U.S. Army special forces. “These peanut-growing bandits are going to face the hellfire of their darkest, peanut-fueled nightmares,” declared Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C.

Oct. 24, 1998

New York Times

Headline: “In Shift, President Vests Powers in ‘Czar’ “

Senior administration officials said last night that the White House will appoint a “Peanut Czar” to oversee the president’s campaign against peanut production and consumption. Aides commended the decision and cited progress on several fronts. In recent days, the long-running syndicated comic strip Peanuts has been pulled from hundreds of newspapers, famed peanut advocate George Washington Carver has been demoted from “historic figure” to “anti-American hatemonger,” and the former president and peanut farmer Jimmy Carter has been stripped of his American citizenship. Said a stoic Carter, “It was only a matter of time.”