40 Million People In Japan Have Allergies

Some 40 million people have allergies in Japan, according to the Japan Allergy Foundation. They don't have an English website, even though information about allergies in Japan should be made widely available - don't you think? The Japanese Society for Allergology has English studies, but most are pdf documents. Their October 2009 Vol 58 issue 4 (in print) had a focus on food allergy- someone should make all of this information available in a more accesible way!

According to a new study by Ito and Urisu (pdf), food allergies affect 12.8% of infants in Japan. 5.1% of 3-year olds and 1.3-2.6% of school-age kids in Japan have food allergies, causing a number of problems, "particularly in terms of providing lunches to the affected children."

I had a chance today to speak to some 30-40 mothers and others with an interest in food allergies in Omiya, north of Tokyo. The theme was "Slow food" so I had prepared a presentation about issues from Sweden as well as current topics here in Japan.

Slow Japan

I introduced traditional Swedish foods and explained how organically labelled foods have become so popular thanks to government support, reaching 10-20% in many cases. We also talked about Satoyama Initiative and the Green Lantern in Japan, as restaurants are increasingly better connected to local farmers.

I got a lot of questions about food safety, ranging from labels ("Can we trust them?") to deeper issues ("Why does my child have food allergies?") .

I have talked many times about these topicss, and my main points are:

  • People with allergies are not "weak" - you are strong!
  • People with allergies know more than most other people about health
  • People with allergies can teach others about environmental problems
In fact, the more I learn about allergies, especially food allergies, I am convinced that it is a strong message to people to change their habits, to educate themselves, and to get involved in the debate about food, farming, and our future.

Young mothers especially may suddenly find that all they know is "wrong" and they have to quickly study and understand more about food - ingredients, farming practices, traceability, labelling issues. They notice immediately if their baby is not feeling well. They cannot afford to make mistakes! Consequently, they are happy to discover organic food makers and others with a strong commitment to food safety.

Wow, I'm sorry to say I can't find any good websites in English if you have questions about food allergies in Japan...

Thanks to NPO Millet for inviting me today, best wishes to all of you.

Allergy links:

Ministry of Health: Food Allergy (English)
Japan Allergy Foundation (Kyushu branch, Japanese only)
Japan Allergy & Asthma Network (Japanese only)
Food allergy and Anaphylaxis Partnership (Japanese only)
NPO Millet (Japanese only)
Atopicco (NGO with a focus on food safety, Japanese only)

Kids With Food Allergies (US website in English)


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