The allergy myth


This whole allergy thing with food seems to be getting out of hand. It seems that half the country is now allergic to some food or other.

The pizza and pasta chain Ask, for example, provides a chart of all its dishes, listing whether they might contain products that could affect people who claim to have allergies. There’s fourteen products listed!  Apart from the usual suspects, the chart also lists celery, mustard, and sesame.

When I was growing up, I don’t recall many people having allergies to certain foods. And restaurants or café menus never had an allergen code.

So this all seems to be a relatively recent thing. And I suspect it’s a trend just in some in affluent Western societies.

Yes, there are people with genuine allergies, but they are very few.

I can’t help but wonder if all these claims to be allergic to eggs or gluten is to do with all this nonsense about clean eating, free from, veganism and all that guff we hear about in some sections of the media.

Or perhaps it’s also to do with attention seeking. Or wanting to claim some kind of moral superiority or quasi religious status. Jews only eat kosher food and Muslims only eat hal al.  So your middle class hipster will only eat some version of free from.

My son’s school bans nuts. Now, there might well be a pupil who is allergic to nuts. But why should all the other pupils not be allowed to take a bar containing nuts in their packed lunch when they go on a school trip? That is…just…nuts.

Jay Rayner wrote an all-guns-blazing piece about food intolerances in The Guardian some years ago. He wrote:

So where has this trend come from? My suspicion is that today’s food excluders were yesterday’s picky eaters, the tiresome little brats who, as children, spat out everything put their way with a shout of ‘I don’t like it!’ Now they have grown up but their palates haven’t. In this ego-centred age, they have been given license to come up with a bunch of excuses, wrapped in the language of pseudo science, excused by pompous and spurious claims to the moral, religious or ethical high ground, when really all they are actually saying is: ‘I still don’t like it!’ Of course any lactose-intolerant, peanut-allergic, kosher-keeping, food-combining, coeliac vegetarians who want to debate this with are most welcome to do so (if they’ve got the energy). One thing is certain though: we’re not going to be doing it over dinner.

 I think he’s spot on. There’s confusion about being intolerant to a certain kind of find and simply not just liking it.

And that’s the problem nowadays if you invite a group of people to dinner. You can’t assume they will all eat everything.