Food Allergy Poseurs Need To Stop. They’re Driving Me Crazy!


One in 10 Americans have food allergies, but twice as many claim to have them based on a recent study of 40,000 people. What’s up with that?


The place I work goes overboard in asking people about their allergies. It drives me nuts.

This past week I was working at a communal table and overheard somebody ordering the crunchy Asian green salad. It happens to be my favorite, so my ears perked up. The menu describes the dish in detail. It contains cabbage, cashews, carrots, and a ponzu dressing.

My tablemate placed her order and returned to her laptop. That’s when the server asked the obligatory “any allergies?” All of a sudden, she developed an allergy to cabbage and cashews, basically the whole salad. When he asked if they should make a traditional salad for her, she waited a minute and then added she was also allergic to tomatoes. Why not just ask for a green salad with that terrific ponzu dressing – that was clearly the only reason she ordered the Asian green salad.

I may be all wrong about this, but for a specific subset of the population, instead of saying they don’t like a particular food, they feel more comfortable claiming to have an allergy.

I hear fewer guys profess to have allergies – they’ll just come out and request a menu substitution, e.g., “hold the mushrooms.” The women I run into here, all have allergies. I’m starting to feel that an allergy makes you special; it gives you a certain kind of VIP status.

I did some research on this and found an insightful piece in that sheds some light on why people feign allergies.

  • Sometimes, it’s to avoid stuff they don’t like.
  • In some instances, they have a food intolerance (not an allergy).
  • In many cases, they’re trying to lose weight and find claiming an allergy is a more socially acceptable reason to avoid eating certain items (since people will take a supposed medical condition more seriously than a weight-loss diet).


Bottom Line.

Judging by where I work, I would have to believe that three-quarters of the young women in NYC have food allergies. I think that’s absurd.

Or as somebody recently noted, 5000 years of eating bread and in the past decade, everyone is allergic to gluten.

All the evidence I can find indicates the growth in the category is mostly marketing driven. As noted in a recent  “Global Food Allergy Market” report for 2018-2025,  “rising awareness about food allergies, the high unmet needs coupled with novel product introduction in the market are  factors contributing to the growth of the market in the near future.”

I would say that’s 100% correct.

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