Outrage for Sale: Robyn O’Brien’s Peanut Post and the Unpopular Truth

Heather Fraser1As a peanut allergy parent reading Robyn O’Brien’s recent post Science for Sale: the Funding Behind the Latest Study on Peanut Allergy, I found it easy to get behind her outrage.

Just a little too easy.

Robyn describes the perceived conflict of interest in using funds from the peanut industry for a recent study on peanut allergy published in Feb./15 in The New England Journal of Medicine.1 This perceived conflict is seemingly made worse by the study’s suggestion that eating more peanuts might help reduce peanut allergy in kids.

She also points out that the most vulnerable atopic children were dropped from the study: That’s like conducting a diabetes study on sugar, funded by the sugar industry, and throwing out the diabetics before you start.

In short, this soaring allergy epidemic is outrageous and doctors, instead of really looking into causes are fiddling while Rome burns. Robyn throws down a gauntlet:

The bottom line is that this epidemic has come on so hard and so fast that we are still trying to understand what is triggering it.

And then, perhaps not fully recognizing the significance of what she has just stated, she motors on and re-arms with fresh indignation again at the epidemic that has come on so hard and so fast.

. . . Here, in this simple factual observation, is the heart of the entire allergy epidemic.

DarePfree signWe might all agree that virtually everyone in the allergy and anaphylaxis community recognizes the sudden nature with which the peanut and food allergy epidemic has emerged in kids. We hear the common refrain, “We didn’t have this when I was at school.”

And, it’s true. Something happened suddenly to precipitate food anaphylaxis in kids about 20 years ago and, I offer, that ‘something’ has persisted and contributed in large measure to the epidemic levels of allergy and anaphylaxis among children today.

As a parent of a peanut-allergic child from the first wave in the 1990s, I believe I know what happened – and my understanding is rooted as much in medical literature as in documented historical events.

Even the LEAP study alludes to it. They come up to it and then back away – because they can’t look squarely at causes. The study does not imply or suggest that eating peanuts (whether early or late, in large or small doses) is the sole cause of peanut allergy. In fact, their inquiry begins with kids they believe are at risk for the allergy, those with eczema (often caused by milk allergy) and/or egg allergy.

In other words, a significant risk factor for developing peanut allergy is allergies.

And so, let’s stop and ask a question the study authors can’t or won’t ever ask: how did the children in the study aged 4 months to 11 months develop their initial allergies that then made them so vulnerable?

A key to understanding the precipitating cause of these early allergies in children lies, again, in the history that Robyn, all of us, have observed but not examined.

There was a window of time in and around 1990 during which prevalence of anaphylaxis in children increased suddenly, just in certain countries: the U.K., Canada, Australia and then a little later, the U.S.

Something changed at this time for children.

The timing is confirmed by: emergency room records, a U.K. cohort study and, of unappreciated significance, the eye-witness accounts of teachers suddenly confronted in the mid-1990s by a flood of severely allergic kids.

During this period, anaphylaxis suddenly emerged in thousands of children in these countries. No one knew there was a serious allergy problem until the affected children showed up for kindergarten. As the 1990s unfolded, the problem intensified.

What has the power to create anaphylaxis so fast just in kids and just in certain countries, and at the same time?

close P smallThe short answer is that we know how to create epidemic allergy in kids. We’ve done it before.

Just over 100 years ago western medicine provoked mass allergy in children by mistake – the words allergy and anaphylaxis were created in 1906 and 1901, the former by pediatrician Clemens von Pirquet to describe an unexpected and massive iatrogenic outcome from the first mass immunization of children with the hypodermic syringe.

Through vaccination with the needle at this time, we discovered that immunity and allergy are two sides of the same coin: both are immune defenses; and you cannot provoke immunity without provoking allergy in vaccination, ever.

But surely to God, doctors are smarter today because they know all this and are careful in their use of vaccination so as not to cause allergies in our children. Surely, the doctors know.

And, they do. But seem powerless to stop it.

Here, with endnotes, are just a few articles from the plethora of published medical literature on the relationship of vaccination and allergy – these you can print from online and take to your next appointment with the allergist:

  • the chicken pox shot in 2015 created asthma from which there were deaths2
  • an adjuvant in the 2009 H1N1 flu shot created greater than expected numbers of anaphylaxis and allergy3
  • aluminum in vaccines in 2013 augmented high levels of allergy IgE4
  • pertussis in the DPT vaccine in 2002 resulted in high rates of asthma and anaphylaxis5
  • recognition in 2002 that children experienced a delayed allergy to thimerosal following vaccination6
  • immediate anaphylaxis to vaccination became so commonplace in 2000 as to be called an “obstacle”7 ;
  • and so on.

100+ years of medical literature and a Nobel Prize cannot be wrong:

The first injection, instead of protecting the organism, renders it more fragile and more susceptible. This is anaphylaxis. ~ Charles Richet, “Anaphylaxis,” Nobel Lecture, Dec., 19138

Doctors today cannot deny that vaccination causes allergies and anaphylaxis. However, they are careful not to reveal what kind of allergies vaccination creates or how many children might be affected.

Such a direct causal line was initially drawn in the 1990s as concerned researchers confronted the rising problem of allergy in children:

Our findings indicate nanogram quantities of PT (pertussis toxin), when administered with a food protein, result in long-term sensitization to the antigen, and altered intestinal neuroimmune function.

“Pertussis adjuvant prolongs intestinal hypersensitivity,” The Int Arch Allergy Immunol 1999 Jul; 119(3):205-11 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10436392?dopt=Abstract

An increase in the incidence of childhood atopic diseases may be expected as a result of concurrent vaccination strategies that induce a Th2-biased immune response. What should be discussed is whether the price of a reduction of common infectious diseases through a policy of mass vaccination from birth is worth the price of a higher prevalence of atopy.

“Multiple Vaccination effects on atopy,” Allergy 1999, 54, 398-399. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10371102?dopt=Abstract

Through the 2000s, doctors backed away from research on the role of vaccination in childhood atopy, including food. Why?

I have heard that there is an unwritten rule that no research at universities is to be conducted on the role of vaccination in allergy. To do so, for a doctor, would mean loss of job, income, reputation, everything.

Even the much touted explanation for pediatric allergy, the hygiene hypothesis, in which infant immune systems are considered skewed by western medical interventions rejects the most obvious and ubiquitous immune altering intervention ever created. And it is one designed to provoke the immune system and with a history of creating just what we are experiencing today — epidemic allergy in children.

Instead, there is deafening silence from the medical community on causation. Scouring under beds for peanut dust and spending time and money on research we know will never and can never unearth causes may be outrageous — no matter how well crafted and peer reviewed the study.

But, I have to add, the unfettered outrage in Robyn’s Science for Sale dances around the truth as much as doctors are doing, and it fuels nothing but more outrage.

Well, outrage sells. Fine. But where and to what does it lead?

At what point in the soaring epidemic of peanut allergy that came on so hard and so fast will any of us – doctor, peanut boards, community members – be ready and able to confront the obvious and unpopular truth?

~ Heather Fraser

Heather Fraser is author of The Peanut Allergy Epidemic, second edition, Spring 2015.


1 G. Du Toit, et al., “Randomized trial of peanut consumption in infants at risk for peanut allergy,” NEJM, (2015). http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1414850

2 A varicella zoster virus vaccination program resulted in increased asthma morbidity and an increase in mortality when there was delayed onset of asthma after varicella zoster virus.

Ditkowsky JB, et al. “Varicella vaccine increased morbidity, mortality in delayed-asthma onset,” American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Feb. 24/15 Abstract 763. Presented at: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Meeting; Feb. 20-24, 2015; Houston. http://www.healio.com/allergy-immunology/immunotherapy/news/online/%7B9e914224-246a-4bb7-8d32-b0e7fe3fa603%7D/varicella-vaccine-increased-morbidity-mortality-in-delayed-asthma-onset

3 Increased anaphylaxis and other allergic-like events observed in association with AS03-adjuvanted pandemic H1N1 vaccine remain mostly unexplained despite extensive risk factor review. However, prior to mass vaccination with similar formulations this safety signal warrants further consideration and better understanding. In particular, the predominance among women of childbearing age may be a clue to underlying biological or hormonal influences on adverse immunological responses to vaccine.

Rouleau I., et al., “Risk factors associated with anaphylaxis and other allergic-like events following receipt of 2009 monovalent AS03-adjuvanted pandemic influenza vaccine in Quebec, Canada. Vaccine. 2014 Jun 12;32(28):3480 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24793951#

4 Aluminum-containing adjuvants increase the effectiveness of vaccination, but their ability to augment immune responsiveness also carries the risk of eliciting non-target responses . . .

“How aluminum adjuvants could promote and enhance non-target IgE synthesis in a genetically-vulnerable sub-population,” J Immunotoxicol. 2013 Apr-Jun;10(2):210-22. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/22967010/

5 M. Flora Martin-Munoz, “Anaphylactic reaction to diphtheria-tetanus vaccine in a child: specific IgE IgG determinations and cross-reactivity studies,” Vaccine, 20, 27-38 (Sept. 2002): 3409-3412.

The odds of having a history of asthma was twice as great among vaccinated subjects than among unvaccinated subjects. The odds of having any allergy-related respiratory symptom in the past 12 months was 63% greater among vaccinated subjects than unvaccinated subjects. “Effects of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis or tetanus vaccination on allergies and allergyrelated respiratory symptoms among children and adolescents in the United States,” Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, Feb. 2000; 23(2):81-90. PMID 10714532

6 Delayed-type hypersensitivity reactions from thimerosal exposure are well-recognized. Identified acute toxicity from inadvertent high-dose exposure to thimerosal includes neurotoxicity and nephrotoxicity. Limited data on toxicity from low-dose exposures to ethylmercury are available, but toxicity may be similar to that of methylmercury. Chronic, low-dose methylmercury exposure may cause subtle neurologic abnormalities. Depending on the immunization schedule, vaccine formulation, and infant weight, cumulative exposure of infants to mercury from thimerosal during the first 6 months of life may exceed EPA guidelines.

Leslie K. Ball, et al., An Assessment of Thimerosal Use in Childhood Vaccines,” Pediatrics, Vol. 107 No. 5 (2001): 1147 -1154 http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/107/5/1147.short

7 M.R. Nelson, et al., “Anaphylaxis complicating routine childhood immunization: haemophilus influenza b conjugated vaccine,” Pediatric Asthma, Allergy & Immunology, 14, 4 (Dec. 2000): 315-321. http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/088318700750070411

8 http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1913/press.html


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20 Responses to Outrage for Sale: Robyn O’Brien’s Peanut Post and the Unpopular Truth

  1. Dawn says:

    In general, the health care system does not seek out root causes of any symptom or illness. If they did, pharmaceuticals wouldn’t be used so heavily, natural remedies and lifestyle changes would be encouraged instead, and drug companies and conventional doctors would not make nearly the amount of money they do now. So, this situation really isn’t surprising at all. Scary and infuriating, yes, but surprising, no. Thankfully, there are many health care practitioners who are going against the system and finding ways around it, as most people who are familiar with this blog realize.

    As the parent of a child who was diagnosed with a severe food allergy at 9 months old, during the mid 1990s, I certainly think that vaccines had a lot to do with it. And I wish there were a way to test conclusively one way or another. But at the same time, there have been tests on newborn umbilical cord blood that show that they average about 300 different known toxins in their tiny bodies before they are even born! And each infant’s chemical exposure, environmental triggers, immune system, and genes are different. Their immunity can also be significantly affected by the mother’s state of health, particularly gut health, as well. Being that there are so many variables, it would be hard to test, especially since the levels of toxins in any body vary over time. I wish it were required that all newborns were tested soon after birth and all diagnosed food allergic individuals were tested immediately after diagnosis, but this would take large sums of money that only the pharmaceutical industry could afford (unless you had an anonymous philanthropist funding it, but that would be done at great risk). And we all know that will never happen.

    So the best thing we all can do is to keep up with the research and avoid as many toxins as possible. Most food allergy parents were never told that avoiding the allergen is not all they have to do, or that a food allergy is a sign of inflammation, and that other health issues may develop over time. Most food allergists aren’t even trained to test properly for IgG food sensitivities, either. And a ton can be learned from the gluten free community.

    I’m really glad you wrote your book, and am going to read it. While I don’t generally appreciate when people point to one thing as the cause of any given illness (and many point to GMOs as a contributing factor as well), the fact that vaccines are given so excessively has long been a concern of mine, and I thank you for cautioning the food allergy community. Many of them – and the doctors who diagnosed their kids – really aren’t willing or able to even consider that they could be contributing to the problem in a big way, unfortunately. Tons of money has been spent on misinforming the public about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, as continues to be done with genetically modified foods. So thank you very much for sharing your knowledge and experience! We mothers can learn so much from each other, if only we are open to different viewpoints.

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  4. Alyssa says:

    I feel like there’s more motivation behind this article than what the author wants to acknowledge. The author comes from The Thinking Moms’ Revolution which is an autism related group. Even though it had clearly been scientifically disproven that autism is in any way related to vaccines, autism advocacy and awareness groups are still often of the mindset that there is a link. This article to me seems to have a hidden anti-vaccine agenda unrelated to allergies. Please don’t buy into this and choose not to vaccinate. Keep your children safe! Educate yourselves from reliable, proven, and scientific sources.

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      Actually, the author is a guest blogger whose child has peanut allergies, just like she says. Her work on the subject is entirely unrelated to autism and very enlightening when it comes to historically known facts about what happens when you inject things into the human body via a hypodermic needle.

      The Thinking Moms’ Revolution is dedicated to chilren’s health. ALL children’s health. The fact that 22 of the 24 parents who started it are parents of children who have or had autism just means that they have dealt with a larger number of the threats to children’s health today than the average parent.

      Autism advocacy is “of the mindset” that there is a link between autism and vaccines, because there is one, as was obvious in two key CDC studies before they were manipulated to hide the associations they found, among so many other scientific studies. Those two studies as cynically pointed to as “proof” that “vaccines don’t cause autism,” when the researchers themselves know that they are anything but. The fact that you can say, presumably with a straight “face,” that it has “clearly been scientifically disproven that autism is in any way related to vaccines,” means that either you have not read the science, you’ve read only a small part of the science, or you simply don’t understand the science.

  5. Ximena says:

    I see more potential conflict of interest: Gideon Lack, MD, the lead investigator of the LEAP Study published in the NEJM, appears on the National Peanut Board’s website as a member of their Allergy Education Advisory Council. http://peanutallergyfacts.org/about-us/about

  6. Janet Sharp says:

    I am 66 years old and I have had a severe peanut allergy since a very young child. I also suffer from a congenital skin disorder which as a child had many outbreaks of excema. As a child NO one understood the severity of this allergy and I had many reactions caused by well meaning adults that just didn’t understand. I have always wondered what it is about the peanut that triggers such violent reactions from the immune system? Inoculations were minimal when I was a child outside of smallpox vaccine and the new polio vaccine there were very few. I just wonder how many senior peanut allergy sufferers there are or did most die inchildhood?

    • Rebecca says:

      I’m really sorry to hear about your lifelong peanut allergy. I highly recommend you read Heather’s excellent book, she chronicles in detail the history of peanut allergy–any food allergy can be linked to a variety of factors. When we talk about today’s epidemic, 1 in 13 children impacted, we know people didn’t have life-threatening allergies at this level many years ago. It literally exploded on to the scene, at this rate, in the mid-1990s. So many historical and political factors colluded to cause this epidemic. But, as Heather points out, allergy is a natural response–I really encourage you to read her book to help understand the mechanism of allergy. But people always say to allergy parents today–“Allergy kids would have just died years ago, that’s why we have the epidemic today”–I always find this argument tricky. Trust me, what is going on in schools today is out of control, you would not believe your eyes at the suffering of kids–kids who are anaphylactic to multiple food groups: can’t eat wheat, dairy, fish, peanuts, tree nuts without risking life or death. Read the book. 🙂

  7. Valerie says:

    I am 61. My severe peanut & tree nut allergy is life-long. The diagnosis was not official until adulthood, but the symptoms of exposure have been consistent my whole life. My parents didn’t believe in vaccines. I had none until high school when my school threatened to oust me unless I got the oral polio vaccine. Explain that.

    • Heather Fraser says:

      Margie Profet in 1991 defined allergy as an evolved defence against acute toxicity. Every mammal has the capacity to create allergy/anaphylaxis. The question might be what was the toxic exposure(s), what were the underlying vulnerabilities contributing to an inability to manage the exposure/detox?

  8. Seth Bittker says:

    Another factor that may have contributed to the rise in peanut allergies is the increase consumption of oral vitamin D by infants and toddlers. Some studies show that consumption of large amounts of vitamin D by infants and toddlers increase the prevalence of allergic disease (asthma and eczema) in later life. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15699498 for example. In addition the level of vitamin D consumption by infants and toddlers increased substantially since about 1990. Prior to 1992 milk was rarely fortified to the levels listed on the label. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1313548 As a result the FDA required that milk be overfortified relative to the level on the label. See: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/Milk/ucm082152.htm In addition since 2003 the American Academy of Pediatrics has promoted consumption of vitamin D drops and the level of supplementation suggested was doubled in 2008 starting from birth. See: http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/vitamin_d.htm

    So given the increasing consumption of vitamin D by infants and toddlers one would expect increasing levels of allergic disease and I think this is reflected in the rising prevalence of peanut allergy.

  9. Abrielle says:

    Isn’t it time that our children get the respect they deserve for being guinea pigs at the hands of the food and drug industry over the past 30 years? They’ve simply been inundated; Robyn O’Brien has done a great job tackling the food industry head on, engaging in toe-to-toe debates. Is it possible to figure out ways to debate this head on with big pharma? or with allergists? It would be great to have some public debates.

  10. Linda Morken says:

    I agree with your sentiment as I understand it. Outrage means little unless the true causes are identified and then something is done about it! To add to the tragedy of needlessly inflicting health problems through vaccines upon our children, the replacement of nutrient-dense real foods with processed, GMO-ridden, glyphosate polluted food-like products is unconscionable. And to replace probiotic-rich, whole fat, traditional dairy that is scientifically proven to reduce allergies and asthma with a dead white liquid – well, I could go on! To say things have gone down hill since our food became corporate-driven rather than sourced from local organic farmers as if was for all but this last tiny bit of our history, would be the understatement of the year. Today’s children have incredibly hard and unnecessary obstacles in their path to freedom from disease. We need to wake up and heed the warnings of researchers like Dr. Weston A. Price.

  11. Brenda Cook says:

    Thank you for your timely well written and truthful article. I’d like to throw in this link as well. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/new-paper-provides-convincing-evidence-vaccine-induced-immune-overload-and-related-serious-health-issues-is-becoming-the-norm-not-the-exception-in-us-children-2014-05-13

    BALTIMORE, May 13, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — A new peer reviewed paper was published in a recent issue of Molecular and Genetic Medicine (s1:025)(s1:2014) that presents convincing evidence that the rapid increase in the number of vaccines given to US children has now created a state of immune overload in the majority, or close to the majority, of young US children and that this is being manifested by related health issues including epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and autism. The new paper is authored by immunologist J. Bart Classen, MD.

    “We have been publishing for years that vaccines are causing an epidemic of inflammatory diseases including diabetes, obesity and autism. However the number of vaccines given to children has continued to rise to a point where we have reached a state of immune overload in roughly the majority of young US children. The new paper reviews the evidence of immune overload and the plethora of different health effects the children are developing because of the immune overload,” says Dr. J. Bart Classen, MD.

  12. John Edwards says:

    Nicely written. I’ve read peanut oil has been a component of vaccine media since the 1960’s (unlisted because it’s used to prep the media, not actually put in as a preservative), and also think the rise of food-related illnesses is due to early overexposure through abherrant pathways. However, atopy and anaphylaxis are different responses physiologically and immunologically. What you’re describing about IgE, IgG, and IgA along with a histamine or complement mediated over-response would make sense in a Th2-shifted child, but I can’t connect the dots to the hormonal pathway activated in bronchospasm. Unless, of course, we look at the underlying neurological tone in the infant as one being sympathetically dominant through a variety of factors- birth experience, trauma, microbiota introduction, maternal inflammation, formula feeding, vaccination, all being snowflakes that lead to the avalanche. If that was the case and we’re looking at a HPAC axis out of balance and triggered by a foreign-looking protein, then well-placed chiropractic adjustments would help this. I’m going to honestly say our literature isn’t exactly full of case studies reversing anaphalaxis (not that it doesn’t happen- I had a child go from anaphalaxis to ant bites that would land him in the ER to being able to resolve the swelling with benadryl). I don’t know of a single IRB that would even allow such a study, although it certainly warrants further investigation. A simple mass spec of the inoculations given before 4 months to determine if peanut oil is a constituent should resolve the question, right?

    • Heather Fraser says:

      I have found no evidence that refined peanut oil is used in pediatric vaccines. Atopy is described in the literature as a risk factor for the development of anaphylaxis. I’m quite certain that even allergists might not have fully ironed out the relationships of asthma, eczema, minor or major allergic/anaphylactic responses. Any and all symptoms are defences, I think. M. Profet wrote in 1991 that allergy is a defence against acute toxicity; the coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, itchy hives, swelling and even the drop in blood pressure (prevent the toxin from circulating) that can occur are all attempts to eject from the body as fast as possible a substance/protein/complex so dangerous that in some cases the body will risk death to avoid certain death. During my son’s last reaction the whites of his eyes turned red, I’d never seen that before. But this time, it was not biphasic. His response had changed to the P. We have since been working with allergist/TCM Dr. Li in NYC. Blood level IgE has not yet changed but there are signs that his gut is healing, lesser reactions (however those are mediated) have diminished greatly. It is a complex response, to be sure.

    • Ximena says:

      Yes, doing mass on vaccines to see what is really in them seems logical. Good luck trying to find a lab to do it or an institutional IRB to approve going against the established medical/corporate community (Big Pharma funds many academic research). I personally called 2 private labs to try to accomplish this seemingly simple task a couple of years ago when I suspected vaccines caused my child’s peanut allergy. Only one responded and ultimately refused to conduct this research project. I also asked a well-known vaccine adjuvant researcher a few questions regarding peanut in vaccines and got no reply. This is taboo. As an ordinary individual, I have no power to do it.

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