For years, my husband has insisted that the general incidence of food allergies is vastly overstated. “It’s another form of public hysteria,” he insists. Well, chalk one up for the grounded midwesterner (Michael’s from Kansas). Today in the NY Times, Gina Kolata reports that a new study has been released, commissioned by the federal government, that estimates only around 8 percent of children and less than 5 percent of adults actually suffer from food allergies. The remaining 25 percent who think they do might be suffering from simple intolerance or from information gleaned from an unreliable test (the pin-prick test should not be considered conclusive, says Dr. Joshua Boyce of Harvard).

For more reading on this subject, check out this insightful charticle by Meredith Broussard in Harper’s Magazine in which she dissects a brochure issued by the Food Allergies & Anaphylaxis Network. One detail I particularly loved: the debunking of the news story from 2005 where a teenager died from kissing a boy who had eaten a peanut butter sandwich earlier in the day. The major news outlets covered this as though it was a food allergy death, when in fact the coroner ruled that the girl had smoked pot before the kiss and died of an asthma attack.

This isn’t the first time CHOW has covered faulty allergy testing and bogus allergy complaints. Bottom line: Sometimes “allergic” just means “I don’t like it.”

Image source: Flickr member Dan4th under Creative Commons

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