MLB Stadium Adds Peanut-Controlled Seating for Allergy Sufferers

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Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack and…on second thought, I’ll just have a brat and a Miller Lite.

For millions of allergy sufferers across the country, someone else’s snack can mean a deadly attack. Now one more major league team has been added to the roster of baseball parks offering dedicated peanut-free seating at some games.

The Milwaukee Brewers announced in a press release that there will be a 100-seat peanut-controlled area at Miller Park for games on Monday, May 7, Thursday, July 26 and Friday, September 14, with tickets available for pre-order starting March 1 at Brewers.com/peanutcontrolled. Because the entire venue will not be peanut-free, those seated in the area will be required to sign a waiver. Miller Field is just the latest venue joining the growing trend of Major League ballparks making special accommodations for peanut-sensitive guests, who can suffer symptoms ranging from mild irritation, to potentially deadly anaphylactic shock from consumption of or exposure to the food. The special seating has proven especially popular with the parents of children with food allergies.

As CNN Health previously reported, a 2011 study in the journal Pediatrics reaffirmed the growing problem of food allergies among young people. Researchers found that eight percent of children under 18 in the United States have at least one food allergy. In the past, estimates had ranged from two percent to eight percent, adding to the growing body of evidence that increasingly more children have food allergies.

Among those with food allergies, about 39 percent had a history of severe reaction and 30 percent were allergic to multiple foods. The most common food allergen was peanuts, followed by milk and shellfish. Allergy to peanuts and tree nuts is the leading cause of fatal and near fatal food-allergic reactions. About one percent of the general population is affected by peanut and tree nut allergies, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Roughly half of major league teams, including the Brewers, Chicago White Sox, Seattle Mariners, Washington Nationals, St. Louis Cardinals and others will host peanut-free games this season. Most of them employ intensive measures to ensure the safety of their guests.

U.S. Cellular field, which is hosting its inaugural peanut allergy-friendly event for the White Sox’s home game against the Baltimore Orioles on April 17, suggests a “least peanut-exposed path” to the dedicated section, while vendors at Busch Stadium ensure that vendors will halt the sale of peanuts and peanut products in their specially assigned zone and will not allow fans seated there to consume them.

Representatives for Miller Field told Eatocracy that “The [peanut-free] area itself will receive a thorough power wash and cleaning prior to the games.” Management at Nationals Park, which offers four dates with $25 tickets to thoroughly-cleaned “Party Suites” takes that a step further, ensuring that emergency medical technicians are on site to deal with any issues, and substituting canola oil for peanut oil throughout the venue on designated allergy-free days.

While expert opinion varies greatly about the actual risk outdoor peanut exposure holds, websites like Free to Enjoy Baseball (peanut free and more) and The Nut-Free Mom and Facebook communities Chicago Cubs Fans for Peanut Free Baseball and Peanut-Free White Sox Baseball like closely track and applaud efforts made by major league ballparks – even if they are not fans of the teams themselves.

One commenter on the White Sox group put it in a nutshell writing, “Awesome! Congrats!! I am 100% in support of this…(and by that I mean the Peanut-Free part, not the White Sox part!!) :)”

(Kat Kinsman, Eatocracy managing editor, CNN)