I was at Trader Joe's the other day when I noticed a big commotion going on at one of the registers. It seems a popular product had just been removed from the shelves after it had been found to contain "trace amount of peanuts." Because those with peanut allergies could become "deathly ill." The implication was that there are many such allergy sufferers.
Has it really come to this? Have we become a country of spoiled children, coddling our imagined sensitivities? It seems everyone has some sort of allergy or sensitivity to what for years have been staple foods. Ask your friends. Listen to people order at restaurants. I can't eat gluten. Tree nuts make me sick. Or eggs. Or soy. Or wheat. And yes, peanuts, which head the list of most common food allergies in children, based on self-reports of symptoms. Two percent of kids become ill when ingesting the popular lunch item, according to their parents.
But as Scientific American recently reported, these ever-more-common allergies are often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed or even mistaken for other conditions. The skin-prick test, which clinicians use to diagnose food allergy, can produce signs of irritation in as many of 60 percent of people who are not actually allergic. Why such a large margin of error. Because scratching your skin with a needle just plain hurts!
What's more, parents often take their kids to the ER with skin rashes they believe are caused by formula or other foods, when in fact these symptoms occur in common childhood ailments and infections that have nothing to do with allergic reactions. Yes, some do become ill when eating high-risk foods. But we are talking a fraction of a percent of the population, hardly the number of shoppers who avoid these products on the shelves.
So stop being so sensitive, America. Eat moderately. Choose unpackaged, unprocessed foods and don't buy into the hype so as to save yourselves unnecessary trips to the doctor. We've been eating most commonly available foods for thousands of years, and will likely do so for many more. If nuclear war, global warming, or autonomous machines don't take us out first. (In other words, there are bigger fish to fry, kids.) And giving kids tiny amounts of a variety of foods when they're young can avoid real allergies as they get older. Just, no wheat. Because my experience is that allergy or no, bread does nobody any favors.