Another Person's Poison: A History of Food Allergy

Another Person's Poison: A History of Food Allergy

by Matthew Smith


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To some, food allergies seem like fabricated cries for attention. To others, they pose a dangerous health threat. Food allergies are bound up with so many personal and ideological concerns that it is difficult to determine what is medical and what is myth.

Another Person's Poison parses the political, economic, cultural, and genuine health factors of a phenomenon that dominates our interactions with others and our understanding of ourselves. For most of the twentieth century, food allergies were considered a fad or junk science. While many physicians and clinicians argued that certain foods could cause a range of chronic problems, from asthma and eczema to migraines and hyperactivity, others believed that allergies were psychosomatic.

This book traces the trajectory of this debate and its effect on public-health policy and the production, manufacture, and consumption of food. Are rising allergy rates purely the result of effective lobbying and a booming industry built on self-diagnosis and expensive remedies? Or should physicians become more flexible in their approach to food allergies and more careful in their diagnoses? Exploring the issue from scientific, political, economic, social, and patient-centered perspectives, this book is the first to engage fully with the history of a major modern affliction, illuminating society's troubled relationship with food, disease, nature, and the creation of medical knowledge.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231164856
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 01/23/2018
Series: Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 312
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Matthew Smith is professor of history at the University of Strathclyde’s Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare. He is the author of An Alternative History of Hyperactivity: Food Additives and the Feingold Diet (2011) and Hyperactive: The Controversial History of ADHD (2012), and he is coeditor of Deinstitutionalisation and After: Post-War Psychiatry in the Western World (2016).

Table of Contents

Introduction: "Witchcraft, a fad, or a racket?"
1. Food Allergy Before Allergy
2. Anaphylaxis, Allergy, and the Food Factor in Disease
3. Strangest of All Maladies
4. Panic? Or the Pantry?
5. An Immunological Explosion?
6. The Problem with Peanuts

What People are Saying About This

David Gentilcore

With a cast of characters that includes orthodox allergists and food allergists, immunologists and clinical ecologists, Nobel Prize winners and quacks, patients and parents, as well as the pharmaceutical, chemical, food, and insurance industries, Matthew Smith ably guides us through the allergy minefield, in this well-researched, thought-provoking, and entertaining book.

Mark Jackson

This exemplary history neatly demonstrates our understandings and experiences of food allergy across time. Combining historical depth with an awareness of the clinical and scientific dimensions of allergy, this book is not only an assured study of the emergence of a modern medical conundrum but also a rich and persuasive analysis of the importance of diet for health. It will provide historians, allergists, and the public with much food for thought.

Rima D. Apple

Another Person's Poison details a complex and illuminating history of food allergies through an astute examination of the interplay of the theoretical and the clinical, as well as the professional and the commercial. Matthew Smith's writing brings to life the contentious debates that continue to plague any discussion of food allergies.

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