More People Are Experiencing Severe Food Allergies Than Ever Before

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By Mattew Smith in The Conversation.

 

The recent inquest into the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse from anaphylaxis after eating a Pret A Manger baguette she was unaware contained sesame, could lead to a change in labelling legislation. Indeed, a recent investigation found that undeclared allergens were present in a quarter of foods sampled. But a more fundamental issue needs to be addressed: why are more people experiencing severe food allergies than ever before?

As I explain in Another Person’s Poison: A History of Food Allergy, strange reactions to food have long been known. The Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (c.460-370BC) described such reactions to various foods, including cheese. Strawberries caused Richard III to break out into hives. It is said he once sneakily consumed “a messe of strauberies”, and then blamed his reaction on witchcraft orchestrated by one of his opponents, who was summarily beheaded. By the time Austrian physician Clemens von Pirquet coined the term “allergy” in 1906, many believed that food could trigger skin problems, asthma, gastrointestinal distress and even mental disorders.

 

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