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Lack of awareness adds to struggle of people with food allergies

By Farah Al Asmar - Mar 01,2021 - Last updated at Mar 01,2021

AMMAN — There is a lack of awareness in the Jordanian society regarding the potential health consequences of food allergies if not addressed properly, experts told The Jordan Times.

The increase of the number of people diagnosed with food allergies had nearly no impact on raising people’s awareness on the topic, according to Zaheyyeh Assaleh, the founder of “Allergic, Not Deprived” initiative.

“Before the spread of the COVID pandemic, I tried to raise awareness on the importance of accepting food allergy patients and adapting to their needs. We tried to implement awareness campaigns on the topic in schools, but unfortunately, school administrators did not welcome the idea,” Assaleh said.

Mohammad Al Rafed, a paediatrician, stated that diagnosing food allergies is “tricky”. Symptoms of food allergies vary from anaphylaxis and skin rash to diarrhoea and vomiting, he said. 

“The challenge lies in the fact that some allergy symptoms overlap with symptoms of other common diseases, making it sometimes harder to discover,” Rafed said.

Both Rafed and Assaleh argued that finding proper and cost-effective food alternatives is a challenge in itself. 

The challenges faced by people who have been diagnosed with food allergies do not end here, however. 

“The sense of deprivation that children with food allergies feel is heightened when some of their peers, especially at school, bully them about their food choices,” nutritionist Tamara Al Halaiqeh told The Jordan Times.

Dalia Zarzur, a mother of a two-year-old girl with multiple allergies, voiced some of the challenges she faces in catering to her daughter’s nutritional needs.

“I cannot find any alternative in the market that simultaneously takes multiple allergies into account. Moreover, some products have fallacious labels with inaccurate ingredients. Sometimes a product would have a certain allergen in it where the food label would not explicitly state that,” Zarzur said.

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