Historical and social science perspectives on food allergy

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This article provides an overview of the insights social scientists, historians and other health humanities scholars have made to our understanding of food allergies. It shows how humanities and social science scholars have tended to address three pivotal issues related to food allergies: first, they have addressed the epidemiology of food allergies, including the apparent rise in the rate of food allergies and the emergence of theories that purport to explain why food allergies may be increasing. These include theories related to changes in food consumption and the hygiene hypothesis. Second, humanities and social science scholars have researched how risks related to food allergies have been constructed, understood, experienced and mitigated. Third, humanities and social science scholars have investigated the experiences of food allergy sufferers and those who care for them, providing valuable qualitative insights that can inform how we respond to food allergy and our understanding of the aetiology of food allergy. The article concludes with three recommendations. First, there should be a more interdisciplinary approach to food allergy research that involves social scientists and health humanities scholars. Second, humanities and social sciences scholars should be more willing to unpack and scrutinise the theories put forward to explain the aetiology of food allergies, rather than accepting them at face value. And finally, humanities and social sciences scholars can play a major role in ensuring that the experiences of patients and their carers are articulated and fed into debates about food allergy, including its causes and how to respond to it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)902-910
Number of pages9
JournalClinical and Experimental Allergy
Issue number9
Early online date12 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2023


  • food allergy
  • history
  • social science
  • nutrition
  • immunology


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