That’s the question Meredith Broussard (a contributor here at Babble) asks in her Slate piece, “Nuts to That.” In it she explores the link between the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) and the growing food allergy epidemic. Broussard writes:
The annual cost of allergies is estimated at $7 billion, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and the School Nutrition Association reports that about 35 percent of schools have some kind of allergy-related food ban in place… Many more children die in car accidents on the way to school than from food allergies in the lunchroom; lightning strikes kill more people every year than do food allergies. It raises the question: Are we so afraid of food allergies because they represent a clear and present danger, or have our fears been exaggerated by the vast amounts of money we’ve thrown at the issue?
This isn’t Broussard’s first brush with allergy controversy; she authored a Harper’s piece subtitled, “The exaggerated threat of food allergies.”
But if Broussard’s contention is even partially true–that the most vocal advocates of the allergy movement are biased due to financial connections to the very companies that are making a profit off of the allergy-afflicted (or those believed to be allergy-afflicted), then there is certainly cause for concern.
Broussard argues that trusting these scientists to find out rates of food allergies is like trusting tobacco companies to find out rates of lung cancer. But commenters to her article dismiss the analogy as illogical.
What do you think? Are food allergies as prevalent as FAAN would have us believe? Or is the epidemic simply the result of overzealous self-diagnosis?