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Picture: AMAROSY/123RF
Picture: AMAROSY/123RF

In October, while flying from Durban to Cape Town, I consumed a small packet of complimentary salted and roasted peanuts. Now in my mid ’60s, I have always eaten peanuts with gusto. Yet before the plane landed my lips were swelling and the next day my body was covered with round and incredibly itchy hives. I didn’t recognise myself in the mirror. Tests showed that I hadn’t suddenly developed an allergy to peanuts.

Medieval pictures and descriptions of peasants afflicted with aflatoxin poisoning showed and described the round hives. The peasants felt their skin was literally burning, so the affliction became known as St Anthony’s Fire and was common when grains, especially oats, were stored in warm, humid conditions. The treatments, apart from prayers to St Anthony, included covering the hives with sheep’s fat.

Peanuts are especially susceptible to aflatoxin infestation and I understand there is an ongoing recall of particular brands of peanut butter in SA for this very reason (“Consumer watchdog starts probe into recalled peanut butter”, February 12).

As testing for aflatoxin contamination must surely be mandatory for raw peanut stocks before they are processed into peanut butter or roasted and bagged, one can only assume that, as with the listeriosis outbreak, government health inspectors are not doing their jobs. If they were, this problem would have been dealt with and is another illustration to just how fast a supposedly modern society can return to the “dark ages” if basic food testing and monitoring is not done.

Needless to say, I have not consumed peanuts since my experience. This peanut recall could destroy a significant industry where most of the players are obeying the safety rules. As peanuts are both cheap and nutritious, it would also adversely affect the diets of our struggling populace.

James Cunningham
Camps Bay

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