Monday, 23 February 2009


Speaking of nuts (which Cameron is on Channel 4 news at the moment, in relation to the VAT cut, presumably hoping that Ken Clarke isn't listening) I was slightly alarmed to see that in Zambia they add peanut oil to their sugar. I spotted it on the sachets in the hotel room - and yes, I am the sort of person who reads sugar sachets even when I don't take sugar. It's an automatic reflex.

Until very recently I had two members of staff and an intern with nut allergies, one of whom was so allergic that he wouldn't touch anything which even mentioned being made in a factory where nuts were present. So the sugar is potentially a killer, and not something anyone is likely to check. Sugar is usually just sugar, isn't it?

Later, as chance would have it, I ended up in the company of someone from Zambia Sugar at the High Commissioner's house, at a reception for British business people. Turns out they add Vitamin A to the sugar because there's a real deficiency problem in Zambia, and peanut oil is added to aid absorption. (One of the strange things about Africa is the way sugar is promoted as a healthy food - they do it in Uganda too). I asked him about nut allergies and he seemed bemused, but then said it was only a tiny amount anyway and shrugged it off.

No idea what the prevalence of food allergies is in Zambia. Ground nuts are very much a staple part of the diet. I thought maybe it was one of those things that comes as a result of a pampered Western lifestyle and diet, but in Jo'burg airport the labelling on the South African produce re potential allergens was incredibly comprehensive. Although maybe that's because it's designated for tourists.

So - do Africans suffer from food allergies? Anyone know?


Guthrum said...

No Kerry- they are slightly more worried about AIDS which is killing off the working population and impovrishing the SADC countries- Nut allegies do not even register.

Kerry said...

Of course AIDS is a huge issue - we went to a testing centre in Zambia; they've got the national infection rate down from 30% to 14%, i.e. they're making real progress.

I'm sure food allergies are the least of their problems, if they exist - I wasn't asking from the 'something should be done about it' point of view, but more from the 'if they don't have them and we do, why's that then?' And why do we have so many more people allergic to things now than then?

Old Holborn said...

Of course Africans don't suffer from nut allergies

Introduce subsidies, victims support, disability allowance and mobility, "equality", minority rights and the NHS and they will.

If you doubt it, look at the NHS pre 1945 and post 1997.

Kerry said...

That's ludicrous. You don't get anything for nut allergies, except perhaps some free epi-pens.

Old Holborn said...

No Kerry

You get "Victim" status

And that is worth thousands.

You're a lawyer. Tell me it ain't so.

The Filthy Engineer said...

The reason that they don't have nut allergies is that, they have always eaten nuts as part of their diet. It's only in the western world with the various fads, of what's in and what's not, that a lot of these allergies have taken control. our fetish with cleanliness has had a lot to do with it. Our children have been deprived of the small doses of bacteria that would build up immunity.

Northern Lights said...

Yes all those people with nut allergies are making it up to gain 'victim status'...

Or, in the real world where most people are not paranoid egomaniacs, some people just have allergies. Simple as that.

It's a simple biological phenomenon - ingesting nuts causes breathing problems and, in some cases, death.

Worth thousands? In what sense? Where is the evidence? Who has claimed thousands? Where and when?

Old Holborn said...

Suffering from allergies?

Benefits for ALL!!!

Kerry said...

I have a nephew with a nut allergy. It was discovered when his grandmother gave him a peanut butter sandwich when he was a toddler. His face and throat swelled up and he started choking. Obviously he was a very precocious boy who realised even at such an early age that faking such symptoms would ensure great riches for him later on in life.

You really do talk complete nonsense sometimes.

Kerry said...

And you've just linked to a US website. Is that the best you can do?

Guthrum said...

The national infection rate down from 30% to 14%, i.e. they're making real progress.

Is this for real ! One of my colleagues is a volunteer Director on a AIDS trust in a neighboring country , he would find those figures incredible (as in unbelievable), the situation is getting worse because the young and fit are dying quicker of Cholera, than of AIDS because of the Zimbabwean situation.

Alex Simwanza head of NAC in Zambia admitted that less than 16% of the popoulation had been tested. Culturally taking an AIDS test is a huge problem.

We are building AIDS clinics across Africa,actually getting people to go into them is difficult.


Dave H said...

It's been ages since I found a squirrel in the trap. Either the warning "may contain nuts and a massively powerful neck-breaking spring" is putting them off or my nuts have an unattractive smell.

More helpfully my local rag reports an example of a 'cured' nut allergy.

Old Holborn said...

Mrs Dale is also banging on about diabetes

Again, pure Darwinism costing me a fortune.

Another interesting link of how much of my money is thrown at these workshy "victims"

Kerry said...

The number of people being tested for HIV/ AIDS is still low, but rising. Uganda and Zambia have been very successful in lowering infection rates. Zimbabwe obviously less so. I've seen testing clinics, and public education programmes, which have DFID support through the Global Fund. They work.

Guthrum said...

With 84% of the population not being tested this is a major Public Health problem

As a Libertarian I would say thats their choice, as an Construction Engineer I would say know the size of your problem first, before you start tinkering at the edges, and throwing money at a problem, and saying you are making progress.

That is delusional, and not a scientific approach to a public health problem. It just makes the donor feel warm and fuzzy.

Kerry said...

The proportion of the population being tested has increased significantly, particularly in urban areas - HIV/ AIDS is not such a problem in many rural areas, and therefore testing those people wouldn't have much of an impact on stats on infection. What percentage of the UK population has been tested? That's not the important stat.

If you're going to peddle this kind of cycnicism you could at least make some constructive points as to what could be done to improve the situation.

Guthrum said...

If you're going to peddle this kind of cycnicism

Kerry, I am in Construction in Africa as I have said before, We are building clinics as quickly as we can. We design these in such a way that anybody who wants to take a test is not sitting waiting in the general area.

I know that being a Libertarian is an anethma to you, but socialism has not got the monopoly on compassion.

You cannot just scratch at the surface with a plague with a state/ngo funded 'programme'. A plague is what it is, destroying the young and fit of the population.

You are severely underestimating the connection between the urban and rural African population for cross infection.

When I arrive in African countries the Medical officer at the airport wants to see my vaccination certificates.Fine but this is a misallocation of valuable resources,all funding has to be first directed at ascertaining the level of infection in the population. Every citizen should be tested because of seriousness of HIV infection and have a certificate to that effect. Then and only then can you even begin to devise an effective public health programme. If everybody is tested as routine it overcomes the cultural reluctance to take the test.

As far as I and others who work out there are concerned,with less than 16% of the population tested,this is nowhere near addressing the public health problem, and until it is done the money being thrown at the problem is just being wasted.

This is not cynicism it is addressing the problem in a methodical logical manner, treating AIDS as a medical problem not a political one.

Dick the Prick said...

Can play Russian roulette with a bag of revels though - life on the edge.

Kerry said...

Sorry to be pedantic but do they really have a nutty one in there? From what I recall, which admittedly was a long time ago, there was a coconut one, an orange one, a coffee one, a toffee one and a smooth Minstrel-like chocolate one. The coconut one was the nicest. The orange was the one I always tried to avoid.

There might have been a mint one, but I might be getting confused with Poppets.

As for nuts, in my day we had peanut Treets. Now M&Ms I believe.

Plato said...

Oh no! You liked the coffee ones *bleugh*

I recall the peanut one though - horrible. On a completely unscientific note - I'm in my 40s and never met anyone with a peanut allergy until the last couple of years.

I did go to school with someone who ate a raw kidney bean in art class and was hospitalised though.

Does that count?

Dick the Prick said...

Yeah I think so but you've got me wondering. The coffee ones were pretty vile and why were the minstrels unshelled?

Kerry said...

I didn't like the coffee ones - they were the second worst! I liked the coconut ones.

Have been consulting with Sion Simon, who says there was a nut one and he mentioned the unshelled Minstrel. He also says there was a Malteser one, and I think he's right. And he said a raisin one... not so sure about that.

My cousin, who must be approaching 40, has been allergic to nuts all her life. Couldn't be in the same room as nuts , even in their shells. We'd have to remove them all before she came to visit at Christmas.