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Another Person's PoisonA History of Food Allergy$
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Matthew Smith

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231164849

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231164849.001.0001

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Anaphylaxis, Allergy, and the Food Factor in Disease

Anaphylaxis, Allergy, and the Food Factor in Disease

(p.43) Two Anaphylaxis, Allergy, and the Food Factor in Disease
Another Person's Poison

Matthew Smith

Columbia University Press

This chapter charts the emergence of allergy as a specific field of medical inquiry in the early years of the twentieth century. It considers debates about food allergy, which could be distilled to how one defined allergy and how one applied such definitions in clinical practice. Anaphylaxis denoted a restricted definition of food allergy, which was limited to certain reactions and, by extension, certain kinds of food. For orthodox allergists, who believed that the rates of food allergy were exaggerated, it was Charles Richet's definition of anaphylaxis that mattered most. Allergy, as defined by Clemens von Pirquet, widened the spectrum, allowing for a greater array of symptoms, especially chronic complaints, to be included under its umbrella. Physicians who regarded food allergy as a widespread clinical phenomenon adhered to this definition. But for some, including the clinical ecologists who defected from allergy in the 1960s, even von Pirquet's term did not go far enough. They, instead, turned away from the immune system and toward Francis Hare, whose inductive process had convinced them that food played a key role in countless chronic health problems, including mental illness.

Keywords:   food allergy, allergies, anaphylaxis, Charles Richet, Clemens von Pirquet, Francis Hare

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