Food Diversity and Allergies

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Within his book, Pollan discusses how chronic diseases were “quickly acquired” by immigrants in America. This reminded me of an experience I had while living in Dubai, as it was only people from North America that were allergic to nuts. Within our expat community growing up, it became a ‘running joke’ to identify North American’s through their nut allergies. New students would introduce themselves in class and mention they were from Canada or the US, and immediately would be followed up by the question “are you allergic to nuts?”. These allergies could have a root in the chronic diseases Pollan talks about, as allergies can be passed down through genetics. Perhaps the reasoning for an increase in regional nut allergies could also come from a certain type of ingredient, or lack of an ingredient, that is not as accessible to certain places.

Where I lived largely affected my diet, and what foods were more readily available to me. In Dubai, I ate a lot more fruit and vegetables as the hot climate allowed for them to be grown more locally. However, when I lived in Calgary, most of our dishes were based out of grain- such as pasta, bread, and cereal, due to the landscape being well suited for growing grains. I never realized how different my diet was based on the region I was living in until I went back to Canada for Christmas break and wasn’t able to find pomegranate in any of the grocery stores. I was still able to buy bananas, apples, oranges, and all the typical fruit that is bought on a more regular basis, but I quickly realized that many of these foods that I had previously enjoyed in Dubai were seasonal in this part of the world. Global food systems are connected, but their variety seems to be limited based on location. I wonder how this diversity in food choice can be increased, and if it would have a positive or negative effect on free and/or fair trade within the food industry. Even more so, even though I want pomegranate in the dead of winter, what am I as an individual able to do to effect the much larger food system at hand? Would other food farmers be affected by the sale of more diverse selection at supermarkets, and what would food prices look like? While Pollan addresses many issues in the western world’s food diet, some of these issues feel a bit out our own control – such as food diversity.

Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Penguin Books, 2008

2 thoughts on “Food Diversity and Allergies

  1. Anne Elizabeth Williamson

    Hey Tania, I think your point about food allergy being a regional/cultural thing is a really important point to make. As someone who has had the pleasure to work with recent immigrants from all over the world, the lack of understanding around is such a cultural barrier between us. I have heard that a majority of the food sensitivities and allergies are found in the US, and that is due to the way our food is produced. Personal experience has shown that this is probable. I have some trouble with gluten, and try to eat gluten-free when I can. I spent a month in Morocco, and the main staple of the diet is bread. Over the course of the month, my stomach did bother me, BUT it took longer to set it, and hurt far less than normal. The bread I was eating was grown naturally organically, and baked in homes, without preservatives or pesticides.
    I would be curious to know if other people had similar experiences while traveling?


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