If it seems like food allergies are more common now than they were a decade or two ago, it’s not your imagination. In the U.S., the rate of food allergies increased a worrying 50 percent between 1997 and 2011 alone, and is now estimated to affect 1 in 13 children under 18 years old. Many of these allergies can be potentially deadly — and yet researchers have been stumped when it comes to finding the cause for what has become an epidemic throughout the modern world.
In the past, there have been a few main explanations for the rise in allergies and intolerances, including the presence of GMOs in the food supply (a claim found likely to be unfounded by a recent massive study on the safety of GMOs) and the so-called “hygiene hypothesis.” Now, one researcher from Michigan State University, Cheryl Rockwell, is pointing the blame at a common food additive that may cause some people’s immune systems to go haywire.