My first exposure to the new fad of fruit and vegetable allergies came, surprisingly enough, not through the food industry publications I normally read, but having stumbled across “Peas” listed in the food intolerance section on a specification for a product that I was writing.
My first reaction, after typing “No” in the “Contains” column on autopilot was – “You’ve got to be kidding me! Peas, what’s next!?”, and the next reaction was a mild outrage as the implications of this hit me. Truly, what does that mean for the future – and in my mind’s eye I saw looming panicked consumer demands for legislation to label and segregate all or most the fruit and vegetables. In my horrified thoughts, I saw the mainstay of our health and diet treated as dangerous contaminants and unwanted on many food producers’ sites, excluded from ready meals as potentially harmful to health, and, as a result, leading to the consumption of less variety and quantity of fruit and vegetables overall. But, as it was a single incident with just one specification, I dismissed it as a strange quirk of that particular company, and figured that it was added to their document as a result of some consumer inquiring whether whatever they make had peas in it or not – and thought no more of it for a few days until I ran across no less than two articles regarding the issue.
“The charity Allergy UK told FoodNavigator.com that they are seeing more cases of oral allergy syndrome (OAS), which is an allergic reaction to food limited to the lips, mouth and throat.
Fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts are common causes and foods that are more likely to trigger it include celery, carrots, tomatoes, apples, peaches, pears and hazelnuts…” (Source http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/Fruit-and-veg-allergies-could-outstrip-peanuts)
The article went on to state that these “Oral Allergy Syndrome” diagnoses are becoming more common than the already (too) commonly diagnosed, and that the numbers were climbing epidemically. Great, just fantastic. What the recession-hit economy and industry need most is another dose of barely-founded scare – and from what I can tell, founded mostly on kids’ refusal to eat fresh produce and demand for sweets instead. No, I am not dismissing all the diagnoses nor the validity of immune testing, by any means. What I am questioning is whether something this minor should be influencing the “safety” regulations and due diligence reviews in the food industry. After all, if we list every single food that someone cannot tolerate (or just can’t stand, like I can’t abide hard-boiled eggs), and then try to accommodate everyone, the food industry will end up having to process every single grain, vegetable, and any other type of edible matter separately because of the media fads which have, over the past century, told us many valuable well-researched health ‘truths’ such as: “hydrogenated shortening is cleaner and better for you than lard”, “eggs are good”, “dairy is bad”, “eggs are bad and full of cholesterol”, “dairy is good for your bones”, “fat makes you fat”, “red meat gives you cancer”, and I could go on and on. The point is that human beings have been eating all sorts of [unprocessed] foods like meat, dairy, eggs, nuts, fish and fresh produce for hundreds of thousands of years. And while our technology has now advanced to being able to detect even the slightest immune response to an unfamiliar antigen (most likely due to under-exposure during early years, caused by parents frightened into thinking that those most traditional and commonplace of foods can and will have deadly consequences), does that mean such food should be excluded from one’s diet and regarded as something to be excluded from food manufacturing sites as well?
If you read the list of major allergens, it includes: eggs, dairy, gluten (wheat, barley, etc.), fish, molluscs, crustacea… I could go on. So if you avoid all those (and avoid feeding your child those along with all those terrible greens which may cause the Oral Allergy Syndrome, gods forbid!), what do you have left to eat? Bland potatoes fried in refined vegetable oil? Yeah, that is a healthy foundation for one’s diet, to be sure!
Perhaps we should all simply swap to eating yeast slurry. It’s not been proven to be “bad” for us in any way, and could be chemically supplemented to provide proper micronutrients. Maybe we could get it in IV packs so we’d not have to actually eat the gross stuff—of course, if we did, then there’d be no issue with Oral Allergy Syndrome, now, would there?