Allergies

In the article, “Fear of Food: Allergies Grow Deadlier, Fashionable” Meredith F. Small explains that food allergies, especially to common foods like “milk, eggs, soy, nuts and fish,” have risen dramatically in recent years. Small cites Hugh Samson who works for the Mount Sinai Medical School and Food Allergy Initiative, who explains that culture has affected and changed the way some foods are introduced into our diet. As an example, the instances of peanut allergies are much higher in Western cultures, possibly because we wait so long to eat them. In contrast, cultures that introduce peanuts earlier do not seem have such a problem with peanut allergies. Samson further explains that culture also plays a role in how food is prepared, which can in turn cause allergic reactions. In America we eat dry roasted peanuts, which can cause severe reactions, whereas in Africa, they boil their peanuts, which does not seem to cause allergic reactions.

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 Today in Western cultures being “allergic” to certain foods has become kind of a fad diet. People sometimes “claim an allergy to dairy or wheat as a cure-all for stress, upset, or an off day, but that also doesn’t make those foods a medical problem.” It is interesting that medical conditions like severe allergies can be attributed to the cultural context that they are found in. Small claims that this “fear” of food is something that Western culture has invented and is not something that is often seen in other cultures. Accommodating people’s dietary needs has become such a big part of our society, it is interesting to think that this, which is often seen as an inconvenience, is in part due to our own actions and beliefs. 

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One thought on “Allergies

  1. I think this post does a good job of illustrating that even unlikely aspects of human behaviour are entrenched in cultural norms and ways of meaning making. I was under the impression that food allergies were purely biological phenomena but I see that is not the case. This “fear” of allergic reactions highlights the different relationships that people have with food. I would even speculate that this could tie into ‘over-protective parenting’ in Western cultures where young children are shielded from the types of food that could potentially trigger an allergic reaction. As the post mentions- if this current ‘fad’ of dietary restrictions continues, then the body may be unable to process these ‘dangerous’ foodstuffs when introduced to them. This would result in a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ of sorts.

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