The Forbidden Legume

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You could see why the health police went after Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man, but Mr. Peanut? From nut-free zones on airplanes to peanut butter-free elementary schools in the eastern suburbs, allergy paranoiacs -- backed by, of all things, the Americans With Disabilities Act -- are starting to throw a scare into the good old boys down in Georgia who put the P in PB&J. "People are going to be allergic to things," said Jerry Usry of the Georgia Peanut Producers Association on Wednesday. "To have peanuts singled out seems unfair."

TIME health columnist Christine Gorman says that school officials using a prohibition on peanuts to stave off a rare medical disaster -- and the lawsuits that might follow -- may be applying a pound of prevention for an ounce of cure. "A ban is not very workable. It could increase the stigma for the allergic child, and it could also bring a false sense of security," she says. "The whole plan could be undone as soon as some child brings a Snickers bar from home." The more reasonable solution: equip allergy sufferers with epinephrine syringes and hope for the best. In the current climate, however, reasonableness may have to wait for a vaccine -- and Gorman says that could be years away.