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A pre-peanut history of food allergy

Smith, Matthew (2013) A pre-peanut history of food allergy. Food, Culture and Society, 16 (1). pp. 125-143. ISSN 1552-8014

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Abstract

Since 1990, food allergy has become synonymous with anaphylactic reactions associated with shellfish, milk and, especially, peanut allergy. Rates of food allergy have mushroomed, contributing to changes in how food is produced, marketed and consumed. Concerns about peanut allergy have changed what schoolchildren can have for lunch, affected how foods are processed and labeled, and led to the banning of peanut products in numerous public spaces. Food allergy is not new, but the seriousness with which it is treated is. For much of the twentieth century, however, food allergy was a perplexing, dubious and controversial concept that both divided and threatened allergists. I suggest this was due to: the theoretical, diagnostic and therapeutic challenges raised by food allergy; the claims made by food allergists about the scope and extent of their subject; and the threat food allergy and food allergists posed to the scientific legitimacy of allergy.