It's a cliche, at this point, to note that many more people claim to have food allergies today than they did a decade or two ago. In some David Chang-loving circles, you're expected to rail against the tyranny of "peanut-free schools" and to roll eyes at fellow diners who are overheard asking waiters at Thai restaurants whether their som tum contains fish sauce three times in a row. If allergies really are on the rise -- for some environmental reason, perhaps -- then this cavalier attitude is inconsiderate, even rude.
But according to experts at the Jaffe Allergy Center, disregard for allergies is, to some extent, justified. That's because, even though just three or four percent of Americans have a full-blown allergy to some food, over 20 percent of Americans claim to be allergic.
Researchers admitted than some of the huge gap between these two figures can be attributed to "food intolerance," which describes a range of non-life-threatening reactions to foods. And some allergies, especially to peanuts and tree nuts, really have been on the rise, for some inexplicable reason, over the past few decades. According to one authoritative study, food allergy prevalence is more than twice as high in children as it is in an adult, with eight percent suffering from the ailment.
That means that the next time you encounter someone who claims to be allergic to a food you like, you should feel free to ask them pointedly whether their claim is medically valid. But if they maintain that it is, just defer to them. And as for "peanut-free schools"? HuffPost Food would like to humbly recommend you try out cashew butter.
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