Eastern Outlook: Different Food Allergens and Treatment Issues

People around the world are allergic to a variety of foods other than our designated top eight allergens. Some of these triggering foods are familiar items in US kitchens, others less so.

Some Different Allergens

The familiar fruits of melon, apples, and peaches cause a significant number of allergies in Greece, Italy, and Spain. In Iceland and Norway allergy to cod is widespread. Reactions to celery and celeriac (celery root) are prevalent in Switzerland.

Looking to the east, many individuals In Hong Kong are allergic to royal jelly, and in Singapore to bird’s nest. Buckwheat is a common trigger in Japan, and jack fruit in Bangladesh.

People in India might be allergic to typical Western triggers such as nuts, wheat, and dairy, but there are also a significant number of allergies there to cucumber, okra, papaya, and aubergine (eggplant).

However, what makes the food allergy experience different from country to country is not so much the prevalence of different allergens, but the quality of health and regulatory systems - or lack of them - set up to manage and treat allergies.

Risk On the Rise

In densely populated countries such as India, for instance, food allergy could become an unwieldy public health issue. It’s estimated that up to three percent of the current Indian population has a food allergy; most are under 40 years old. Food allergies are already responsible for about 30,000 emergency care visits there, and between 100 and 200 deaths every year.

Though anaphylaxis is still somewhat rare in India - and other Asian and African countries - there is a concern that the frequency could rise. Developing nations with disjointed medical care systems, particularly in rural areas, and without nationwide allergy programs would have a difficult time responding to increased anaphylaxis incidence.

Treatment Issues

Most of those in India currently at risk for anaphylaxis do not have access to, or cannot afford, epinephrine auto-injectors. Instead, they carry cheap syringes containing adrenaline pulled from an ampoule. Because adrenaline rapidly degrades in India’s hot temps, people are advised to change the syringe every week.

Avoiding allergens is a problematic issue in some developing nations as well. In India, there is no legal framework set up for allergen declaration on food labels, nor are there established allergy organizations people can look to for help or information.

To help fill this information void, Alex Gazzola has written a book called Living With Food Allergies. Published by B Jain, an Indian firm, it is available on Amazon in the US, UK, and India.

Source: Foods Matter/Alex Gozzola
Photo credit: Brian Gratwicke

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