?Are we afraid of food

Podcast Level: Intermediate
Duration: 6:17

Are food allergies on the increase and if so, why? Do some people believe they have an allergy when they don't? Neil and Alice discuss how the food industry has responded to this growing fear of food and teach some related vocabulary.

Are we afraid of food

Transcript


Note: This is not a word-for-word transcript

Neil
Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I’m Neil…

Alice
… and I’m Alice. Neil, what are you eating?

Neil
Peanuts.

Alice
Hmm. Did you know that one of the producers, here, has an allergy to peanuts?

Neil
No, I didn’t – but they’re not in the studio with us, so it doesn’t matter, does it?

Alice
It only takes a tiny piece of peanut to cause a big allergic reaction in some people. An allergy by the way, is a condition that makes you feel ill after eating, touching or breathing in a particular substance.

Neil
And food allergies are the subject of today’s show.

Alice
Alright, put your peanuts down, Neil and answer today’s quiz question. What substance is used to treat a severe allergic reaction? Is it…
a) penicillin?
b) adrenalin?
Or c) aspirin?

Neil
OK, well, I’m going to go for a) penicillin.

Alice
Well, we’ll find out if that’s the right answer later on. Now let’s listen to Dr Marianne Williams talking about why being too clean may not be a good thing. She is a dietician here in the UK.

INSERT
Dr Marianne Williams, gastroenterology dietician, UK
For roughly the first month of life the immune system is switched off in essence and everything they [babies] get exposed to in that first month in life – dogs, cats, aunts, uncles, grannies, grandpas, family, dirt – everything – that is where they build up all the bacteria that are then going to colonise their gut in the future. Now, if you’re born into a very sterile environment, as is increasingly the case in the western world, everything’s kept terribly clean, and one of the theories is that we just are not getting enough exposure to a variety of bacteria at that very very early stage in that first month of life.

Alice
Dr Marianne Williams. The immune system is our body’s defence against infection. And it’s switched off – or not working – for the first month of a baby’s life.

Neil
And through exposure to lots of things in our environment – that’s family, pets, dirt and so on – young babies meet different bacteria for the first time which colonise – or live and grow in – their guts.

Alice
Yes, but in a sterile environment babies don’t get exposed to – or don’t meet – a wide enough variety of bacteria. Sterile means completely clean and free of bacteria. And there’s a theory that being too clean and bacteria-free – now we have soap, antibiotics and better sanitation – has lead to an increase in allergies.

Neil
So dirty play for babies is good – mud, pets, picking stuff up off the floor and eating it.

Alice
Did you use to eat food off the floor when you were little, Neil?

Neil
Used to? I still do. I enjoy food from the floor!

Alice
Well, Neil, what can I say? We’re both lucky to be allergy-free. I have a friend who has an allergy to gluten – a protein found in wheat and some other grains – and she has to be very careful about what she eats so she doesn’t get ill.

Neil
The supermarkets are quite helpful, though, aren’t they, with products ‘free from this’ and ‘free from that’?

Alice
This is helpful, yes. But the food industry is now marketing their products to attract consumers who don’t have a proven – or tested – allergy.

Neil
Why would you buy free-from foods if you don’t have a food allergy?

Alice
Well, people have started to believe that certain foods – like gluten or dairy – are bad for us, though there isn’t any medical evidence to support this. Let’s hear about how rickets – a disease caused by a lack of Vitamin D in the diet – is affecting some children in the UK. This is BBC reporter Mike Williams.

INSERT
Mike Williams, BBC reporter
Rickets is common in the developing world but this is London in the 21st century. These children aren’t malnourished because they’re too poor to eat well – it’s the opposite. Their often middle-class parents are spending money to give them foods with ingredients taken out. It’s as if some of us have become unnecessarily frightened of our food.

Neil
Rickets usually affects malnourished children from poor countries– children who don’t have enough to eat – and it makes their bones weak. But here in London some parents are buying their children expensive free-from foods – for example to avoid dairy – and are sometimes making them very ill.

Alice
It sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

Neil
Yeah… it’s nuts! Get it? Nuts.

Alice
Very good.

Neil
Yes. Nuts – that means crazy. Now I think it’s time for the answer to today’s quiz question.

Alice
OK, then. So earlier in the show I asked: What substance is used to treat a severe allergic reaction? Is it… a) penicillin?  b) adrenalin?  Or c) aspirin?

Neil
I said a) penicillin.

Alice
And you were wrong, Neil! The correct answer is b) adrenalin. An injection of adrenalin can be used to treat anaphylaxis – or severe allergic reactions – to insect stings, foods, drugs, and other allergens. Antibiotics such as penicillin treat bacterial infections and aspirin is a painkiller you might take for a headache.

Neil
OK, can you tell us the words we heard today again please, Alice?

Alice
Sure. They are:
allergy
immune system
switched off
colonise
get exposed to
sterile
gluten
proven
rickets
malnourished
nuts
anaphylaxis
Well, that’s the end of today’s 6 Minute English. Don’t be afraid to join us again soon.

Vocabulary


allergy
a condition that makes you feel ill after eating, touching or breathing in a particular substance

immune system
our body’s defences against infection and disease

switched off
(in this context) not working

colonise
live and grow in

get exposed to
(in this context) meet or encounter

sterile
completely clean with no bacteria

gluten
a protein found in wheat and some other grains

proven
tested or true

rickets
a disease caused by a lack of Vitamin D in the diet and affects bone development in children

malnourished
not having enough to eat or enough of the food you need to keep you in good health

nuts
crazy

anaphylaxis
a severe allergic reaction

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