Hamilton drops idea of trying to ban peanuts from stadiums and rec centres

Hamilton has given up its attempt to ban in its facilities to protect people with allergies. But at least one city councillor says he hopes they come back to it some day.
The City of Hamilton tried a peanut ban at five locations at three facilities. It found it lost money, and it couldn't monitor what third-party vendors were doing.

Hamilton has given up its attempt to ban peanuts in its facilities to protect people with allergies.

One city councillor says he hopes they come back to the idea some day.

The city banned peanuts at three city facilities for a year. It found the attempt caused sales to drop by about $11,500 per year, and that vendors were putting peanuts in machines anyway.

The board of health voted Monday to drop the pilot project, and with it, any attempts to ban peanuts.

But Sam Merulla, the Ward 4 councillor who wanted the pilot, said he wants it to come back some day.

The report speaks for itself," he said. "The conclusion was that it wasn't feasible.

"But we did do our homework, and it is something we can keep on our shelves for future reference."

The ban came after Hamilton parents Ian and Melissa Thompson said their daughter fears for her life when she goes to CFL games at Tim Hortons Field, as well as other city events.

"I'm talking about finding alternatives to products where the peanuts are evident," he said in 2016. "Things you know have peanuts."

The city tried the pilot project at Valley Park Recreation Complex, Carlisle Arena and Sir Allan MacNab Recreation Centre from Feb. 1, 2017 to Jan. 31, 2018. 

Staff members found that on three occasions they knew about, the public reported that third party operators had put peanuts in the vending machines. It was hard to monitor them, said Ninh Tran, associate medical officer of health, in a board of health report.

A peanut ban also reduces product offerings "in a climate where healthy alternatives and caloric awareness are becoming priorities," he said. Many healthier bars contain nuts.

Experts give mixed reviews to the idea of peanut bans. Douglas Mack, a Hamilton pediatric allergist and adviser to the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, said before the pilot started that there's "not a ton of data to support restrictions."

"Having those restrictions gives a false sense of security," he said then.

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Samantha Craggs

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Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca