Parents concerned after peanut butter smeared on Dufferin Grove playground
Published Friday, August 12, 2016 3:41PM EDT Last Updated Friday, August 12, 2016 6:52PM EDT
Parents who frequent a popular park in the city’s west end were shocked to find peanut butter smeared on the children’s playground Wednesday.
The peanut butter was found spread on a play structure at Dufferin Grove Park, located between Dufferin and Havelock streets, by a parent of a young child.
According to city staff, this is not the first time this has happened.
A spokesperson with the city’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation department says the city has received reports of peanut butter spread on children’s playgrounds in Carleton Park, Perth Square and Hillcrest Park. The first report came to the city in June from Perth Square.
But it was the incident this week at Dufferin Grove Park where peanut butter was actually located by city staff and promptly cleaned. Until then, Cutler said staff had not found peanut butter at any of the other reported locations.
“At Dufferin Grove on Wednesday, staff were approached in the park by a parent who reported peanut butter on the playground equipment,” Matthew Cutler told CTV Toronto in an email. “In this case, there was peanut butter on the equipment which was promptly removed by parks staff.”
The discovery is a potentially deadly one for children who have allergies to peanuts. Those with peanut allergies – particularly children – could experience an anaphylaxis reaction, which can be fatal.
Health Canada considers peanut allergies a “priority allergen.”
Some parents have taken to social media to warn other parents about the incident and report other parks where peanut butter has been found spread onto playground equipment.
Parents at the park Friday told CTV Toronto they have been inspecting the playground before letting their kids climb and slide on the equipment.
Many said they are baffled that something so careless could happen in a public place.
"I'm flabbergasted that someone would endanger the lives of children at a children's park," one parent told CTV Toronto.
“I think it’s a very dangerous thing to do. If someone has an anaphylactic allergy to peanut butter it could cause serious harm to a child,” another parent said.
Sarah Milford-Warren is a parent and teacher who frequents the Dufferin Grove Park. She said without an EpiPen, a child with an anaphylactic allergy who is exposed peanuts could face an immediate “life or death situation.”
“Hopefully if you have an allergy, you’re carrying an EpiPen but even with an EpiPen it has to be administered and it’s traumatic, an ambulance has to come and they could be seriously harmed or die,” she said.
Food Allergy Canada, a non-profit organization that aims to help Canadians with food allergies, called the reports of peanut butter on Toronto playground equipment “troubling and a “very real and serious risk” for children.
“Having a common allergen, like peanut butter, smeared on playground equipment is not something parents would expect to encounter in their local community. Given that even a small amount of peanut butter, if ingested, could cause a serious allergic reaction and be potentially life-threatening, it is a upsetting situation for everyone,” Christopher Holcroft, a consultant with Food Allergy Canada, said in a statement issued Wednesday.
Peanut allergies affect nearly 2.4 per cent of children under the age of 18, according to the organization.
Holcroft emphasizes that the dangers of coming into contact with an allergen are more intense for children and advises parents to take necessary daily precautions to ensure they’re kept safe.
“The safe management of food allergies, particularly among children, is a shared responsibility. Any attempt to discourage children with a peanut allergy from enjoying a day at the park is unacceptable,” he said in the statement.
“We encourage parents of children with food allergies to remain careful, not fearful, and we thank all the families who have drawn attention to this issue and been supportive.”
At this point, Toronto police do not consider the incident a police matter and have not initiated an investigation.
“Any vandalism of playgrounds is a serious concern for the city, especially when it prevents residents from using and enjoying the facility,” Cutler said. “Given the known issues with peanuts and the risk of anaphylaxis in some children, this vandalism (is) even more concerning.”
The city advises anyone who notices someone smearing peanut butter or any act of vandalism at a public park to call 311 immediately.