Day 1. A celebrity chokes to death on a peanut butter sandwich.

Day 2. Headlines: “Celebrity’s Fatal Snack.” “Shocked Fans Mourn Hero.” The American Alliance of Alarmist Research Groups (AAARG) reports that 10,000 Americans died in 1992 from choking on peanut butter, and demands warning labels, tougher laws, and increased federal spending. Victims Advising People In Discrimination (VAPID) points to studies showing that peanut butter chokers are disproportionately minority, female, children, and poor. VAPID calls for a nationwide boycott, a federal investigation, and increased federal spending. Editorialists agree that the tragedy is a “wake-up call” that draws attention to a national problem. A major newspaper reports that the celebrity had 55-gallon drums of peanut butter in his basement.

Day 3. Headline: “Extra-Chunky Style: A Spreading Risk?” A police photo of the celebrity’s table knife, smeared with peanut butter, is leaked. It appears on page one of all major newspapers and on the network news.

A CNN Special Report: Jars of Death: An American Crisis.

Senator Barbara Boxer points out that the United States has a higher rate of peanut butter deaths than Canada or Luxembourg. She decries “institutional sexism” in the peanut industry and calls for a congressional investigation, warning labels, tougher regulations, more FDA Snack Inspectors, increased federal spending, and passage of national health insurance.

Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders calls the celebrity a “martyr” and chides the Pope for his “shameful record of silence” on peanut butter, “a threat to us all.”

Greenpeace issues a statement linking peanut consumption to ocean pollution, global warming, and ozone depletion. Protests force some supermarkets to pull peanut butter off their shelves. Rush Limbaugh mocks the “nut nuts” and eats a jar of peanut butter during his radio show.

Day 4. Columnist Molly Ivins says Limbaugh “preaches family values, but practices behavior that endangers society’s most vulnerable.” She points out that former President Reagan never used the words “peanut butter” in a speech and that he vetoed bills that would have increased the number of FDA Snack Inspectors, who are underpaid and often minority women. “It’s another tragic page in Reagan’s Big Book of Neglect.”

At the funeral service (broadcast live on CNN), the tearful widow announces the formation of Condiment Control, a nationwide advocacy group devoted to restricting the availability of all sandwich spreads. Her attorney announces a $100 million lawsuit against peanut butter makers, supermarket chains, peanut farmers, and tableware manufacturers. Hillary Clinton denounces “peanut profiteers,” but disavows Elders’ remarks about the Pope.

FDA Commissioner David Kessler announces a recall of all “extra-chunky” peanut butters. He asks for more Snack Inspectors and the power to regulate all nut butters as drugs. Kessler also says the FDA is considering mandatory viscosity labeling, or even a requirement that nut butters be sold only in liquid form. Cashew and almond producers protest.

Attorney General Janet Reno, citing statistics which suggest that peanut processors intentionally target women and minorities with dangerous food, announces an investigation into possible civil rights violations.

A Current Affair pays $100,000 for an interview with a friend of the celebrity, who claims the celebrity often talked with his mouth full. Antique and collectible shops report a run on peanut memorabilia.

Day 5. A new poll finds peanut butter is now the number two public concern, edging out North Korean nuclear weapons and homelessness.

In a speech at Howard University, a Nation of Islam official calls on all blacks to support the VAPID boycott. He says that peanut butter was “invented by Jews to choke our black brothers and sisters” and receives a standing ovation. The Congressional Black Caucus refuses to comment.

In a segment of Dateline, “Sandwiches of Shame,” NBC broadcasts graphic footage of a dog choking on peanut butter. Oliver Stone is interviewed and says he has evidence of a plot against progressives by the CIA and peanut industry.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest holds a joint press conference with two of Ralph Nader’s consumer groups. Deadly Bread Alert and the Anti-Jelly Action Coalition. They demand tougher nut butter regulation and warn of even greater threats still little known to the public.

President Clinton nominates a disabled Native American lesbian as the new “Snack Czar,” and asks Congress for a $1 per jar tax to fund a “moderate, preliminary” $200 million emergency education effort. A new 40-person office will be jointly managed by Vice President Gore, the FDA, and the United Nations.

Day 6. A new poll shows President Clinton’s poor approval ratings have not changed, despite the administration’s swift response to the peanut butter furor. Proclaiming a willingness to work with the administration, a group of moderate Republicans announces a proposal for a 25 cent per jar tax, to be phased in over three years.

Outraged by the Dateline segment, animal rights groups announce a boycott of NBC. “People Who Still Eat Peanut Butter”: next on Donahue.

The reports of large quantities of peanut butter in the celebrity’s basement prove to be false.

At a press conference, a former classmate announces that he regularly shared peanut butter sandwiches with the Snack Czar nominee.

Day 7. President Clinton withdraws his nomination.

Hillary Clinton denies rumors of peanut futures trading; “There’s no evidence.” Sources say the White House staff is in disarray: “It’s headless-chicken time.”

NBC admits that the dog in the Dateline segment was actually force-fed several jars of peanut butter mixed with epoxy. The AAARG technical consultant defends the procedure, but a producer is fired anyway. Animal rights groups call off their boycott. Editorialists criticize the media’s mishandling of the whole story, which also leads the weekend political talk shows:

“On a scale of zero to ten, with zero being no harm and ten being political Armageddon, how damaging is this ‘peanut panic’ to President Clinton? I ask you, Freddy the Beadle Barnes!”


“A four and rising unless he kills the tax idea.”


“Maybe a point five, but it does help health care reform, and the peanut industry might be forced to clean up its act, which is good.”


“A one. Everyone will forget it by November.”


“A three. It’s another Clinton stumble, and he doesn’t need that right now.”

“The correct answer is two!”

Day 14. Plummeting sales, low prices, and lawsuits force some peanut farmers and processors to declare bankruptcy. Tons of unwanted peanut products are donated to African aid programs.

Day 21. The Nation cover story: “Uncle Sam’s Death Spread; The Racist Plan to Choke the Third World.”

Day 34. A small item in some newspapers, near the back: Increased unemployment in peanut-growing regions and higher farm price-support payments are projected to cost $300 million in the current fiscal year.

Day 55. A small item in some newspapers, near the back: A Justice Department spokesperson announces that the investigation into possible civil rights violations by the peanut industry has been dropped for lack of evidence. VAPID criticizes the decision. Sources estimate the investigation cost $2 million.

Day 90. A small item in some newspapers, near the back: AAARG issues a correction regarding the number of deaths from eating peanut butter. The actual number for 1992, the latest year for which figures are available, is three.