Why Don’t Israelis Have Peanut Allergies? – The Forward

How Israel Beat Peanut Allergies

Allergy advocacy used to be easy. Given the potentially tragic consequences of anaphylactic shock, everyone assumed a simple formula: the more precautions the better. In wealthy countries like the United States, ever greater accommodations were made to ensure that allergy sufferers were separated from the foods that could do them harm. Nut-free schools went from unheard of to ubiquitous in just a few decades. It seemed that the only limits on the allergy-containment agenda were money and willpower.

Over the past decade, however, this crystal clear picture became distinctly blurry. The first blows to the confidence of allergy advocates came from studies that suggested that allergy-free zones were ineffective in keeping people safe. Instead, we learned, they were often counter-productive because allergy sufferers developed a false sense of security, while compliance with increasingly draconian restrictions was impossible to enforce. Warning signs were starting to flash up, counseling moderation in the fight against allergies. However, they were nothing compared to the bombshell revelation waiting in the Jewish state.

The Bamba Conundrum

Israel has relatively low rates of allergies in general, but one form of allergy is particularly rare by Western standards: peanuts. The odd thing is that, when it came to peanuts, Israelis were apparently doing all the wrong things. While conscientious parents in the North America and Europe were carefully shielding their year-old children from anything peanut related, Israelis were plonking Bamba — Israel’s ubiquitous peanut-based snack — in little Motik’s mouth from three months. Israel is famously unenlightened when it comes to peanuts and nuts in general. In one famous case, a young woman died after eating a Belgian waffle that she had repeatedly been assured was nut free. On top of this, peanuts are practically a national obsession. They are everywhere and in…

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