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Clif Bars Recalled Over Possible Contamination

There are a number of common misconceptions about food allergies. Too many people view them as an inconvenience that may result in an upset stomach or a rash. In reality, for a swelling segment of the population food allergies can be deadly. The life-threatening danger posed by an allergic reaction to bee stings is widely recognized, but food is the most common trigger for anaphylaxis. Each year, 100 deaths can be traced to food allergies and 40 to bee stings. 

On July 5, Clif Bar initiated a voluntary recall when several of their product lines were contaminated with peanuts and tree nuts. This includes almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, walnuts and coconuts. The contamination issue was discovered by consumers who complained of peanut and tree nut allergic reactions. On a positive note, there are no confirmed deaths associated with this recall.

As serious as food allergies are, there may be a generational gap that's causing their seriousness to be downplayed. Quite simply, deadly food allergies were a rarity just 40 or 50 years ago. Now food allergies are increasingly common and one troubling aspect of the Clif Bar recall is that a number of the products involved were marketed to children. 

Today an estimated 1 out of every 13 children has a food allergy, and the incidence is increasing. From 1997 to 2007, food allergies increased 18 percent among children under 18 years. In the U.S., about 90,000 people visit the emergency room due to food allergies every year.

There is no complete answer for why certain people have allergies, although both genetic and environmental factors likely play a role. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with an increased risk of food allergies, while some theorize that food additives, genetic modification, hormones and herbicides added to foods may be triggering some cases. Genetic engineering, for instance, can increase existing allergens, or produce new, unknown allergens. Both appear to have happened in genetically modified (GM) soy, which is found in the majority of processed foods. 

Sometimes a food allergy occurs the first time a new food is eaten. Other times you can develop an allergy literally overnight to a food you've eaten your entire life. When you're allergic to a substance, your immune system mistakenly believes it is dangerous and produces immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in an attempt to neutralize it. Chemicals such as histamine released into your bloodstream during this process can lead to a battery of symptoms any time you eat the food (although symptoms may not appear until hours later).

Clif Bar’s recall includes the caveat that the bars are safe to consume if you do not have an allergy to peanuts or tree nuts. It is also worth noting that researchers have concluded that eating a junk food diet increases kids’ risk of allergies. Dietary factors, which influence the health of your gut, are a key factor in the rise of allergies and asthma. When your gut flora is abnormal, your gut lining is more prone to deterioration, allowing toxic substances to leak into your bloodstream, and causing significant increases in inflammation and allergies. This is just one reason that I recommend avoiding all processed foods and that you consume only nourishing whole foods that have been sustainably sourced. 

A comprehensive allergy program needs to address optimizing your diet, intestinal health, and vitamin D levels while avoiding potential triggers. This includes a focus on fermented foods, high-fiber vegetables, and minimal processed foods and sugar. Check out my nutrition plan for more information on how to optimize your diet.  

If you are looking for something to replace your Clif Bar or processed food snack, my delicious Chocolate Fat Bomb and Almond Butter Balls are excellent alternatives. 
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