More adults are suffering from allergic reactions to food than ever, according to a warning from the Food Standards Agency.
Their report suggests that the reactions are on the rise due to the fact that middle class diners are starting to eat more exotic foods, much of which comes in foreign food packaging.
Middle Class Eating Habits
Foods such as fruit, vegetables, and seafood are causing a higher amount of allergic reactions in adults, say the Food Standards Agency. Foods that retail as exotic are causing the problems, with many people trying new things because of pressure from peers to eat more diverse foods.
The most at-risk demographics are those who are teenagers or 20-somethings. At this age, consumers are often trying more new things than ever before, and taking risks on foods which they might be unsure about. If they do experience an adverse reaction, they are also less likely to say anything about it, normally out of embarrassment.
The report said: "Reports from experts and consumers indicate that more adults are becoming allergic to foods and that the types of foods which adults are experiencing issues with are more diverse."
Another of the issues with the rise of allergies could be the fact that exotic foods often have labels written in a different language. This makes them difficult for consumers to understand, so they are not necessarily sure about what they are eating. They could end up eating something that they already know they are allergic to by accident.
The FSA has planned a board meeting to discuss a potential shift in focus. Currently, they concentrate on researching the dangers of allergies in infants and children. They may propose switching to a focus on adult allergies instead as a result of the board meeting.
As it stands, there is not much data about adult eating habits and allergies. Experts think that a rise in world cuisine in middle class diets is likely to be behind the current increase.
Holly Shaw, a nurse adviser at Allergy UK, said: "Modern lifestyles will be responsible for more people trying different foods as people have more diversity of choice now than they did fifty years ago. A lot of work has been done to address the problem of allergies in infants but there are big parts of the jigsaw that we don't understand. Particularly worrying group in terms of eating away from home and not fully understanding the food."
Making A Difference
There is no way to cure a food allergy or intolerance, so work must be done on helping adults to understand what they are allergic to and how they can avoid it. We can already see this with some of the more common allergies, as anyone with chef’s jobs will already know. For example, menu items are often labelled as to whether they are suitable for coeliac disease sufferers, who cannot eat gluten.
The FSA had to issue alerts about undisclosed allergens in food 92 times in 2015, which they say was mostly down to incorrect or non-English packaging. They are also concerned that the phrase “may contain” is used so widely in the food industry that allergy sufferers are beginning to ignore it.
There were 25,093 hospital admissions caused by allergies in the 2015/6 period. This is up by 36% from 2011/2, when there were 18,741 admissions. There has also been a 19% rise over the same period of time in people being admitted for anaphylactic shock, a serious allergic reaction which can result in death if not treated quickly enough.
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