these reports have also neglected to reveal that repeated studies have found that 5 times more parents report their children have food allergies than actually do when tested in double-blind, placebo-controlled food challenges; and as many as 12 times more report food allergies in their infants and children than actually have food allergies when given skin prick testing. The discrepancy between perceived and actual food allergies is growing.
He equated the growing panic over peanut allergies to mass psychogenic illness, also called “epidemic hysteria.” That’s the social network phenomenon where a cascade of healthy people develop anxiety about a perceived danger, and being around others who are anxious serves to heighten one’s own sense of fear. In other words, fear is contagious, not necessarily the actual thing being feared. He said this comparison is helpful in two ways. First, total nut avoidance may not actually reduce risks for allergies, as a new British study suggested. Second, well-intentioned efforts to reduce exposure to the perceived cause actually fans the flames of a food fear because they signal to people that the danger is real, encourages even more people to worry, and fuels perceptions of an epidemic. This then encourages more parents to look for and test for a problem in their children, “thus detecting mild and meaningless ‘allergies’ to nuts.”
only 150* people (children and adults) die each year from all food allergies combined, which compares to 10,000 traumatic brain injuries from sports; 2,000 drownings; and 1,300 deaths from gun accidents. Yet, we don’t hear calls to end sports, he said. And considerably more children die just walking or being driven to school each year. The issue not whether nut allergies exist or can be serious, he said, it’s about balanced, reasonable accommodations for the few children with documented serious allergies.