Allergic reactions to jimami tofu increasing among foreign tourists
Reports of acute allergic reaction, anaphylaxis, and allergic shock among foreign tourists who have eaten jimami tofu while on Okinawa have increased in recent years. Anaphylaxis is a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur when people eat products containing egg, milk, flour, peanuts, and so forth. That has prompted Okinawa Hokubu Hospital to issue a warning about eating jimami tofu aimed at foreign tourists before the top tourists season begins.
Jimami tofu is a tofu product made of locally grown peanuts. It’s a specialty of Okinawa, and jimami means peanuts in Okinawan dialect. Jimami tofu is sold in every supermarket and grocery store in Okinawa. As the tourism market has grown, more foreign tourists have an opportunity to taste jimami tofu during their stay.
Yet, this is not a danger only foreign visitors face. Okinawa Hokubu Hospital Pediatrician Naomi Sasaki, talks about recent two serious cases of local young children who suffered from allergic shock and were taken to the hospital. She says, “Food allergies in young children is increasing significantly. They used to be rare, however, now there are more and more of the cases every year.”
According to researchers, young children under five years old are more likely to suffer from food allergies. Children with food allergy usually show symptoms like swelling or hives, which sometimes progress to more serious symptoms and even to allergic shock that leads to difficulty in breathing.
Okinawa Hokubu Regional Welfare and Public Health Center notes that there is an urgent need to label products with details of content, and recommends educational workshops regarding food allergy to food industry companies. Hokubu Hospital’s Sasaki also agrees that it is necessary for food companies to recognize the importance and take responsibility of displaying product details.
Okinawa Prefectural Yaeyama Hospital Director Dr. Tamie Yorimitsu talks of a necessity of starting immediate efforts and warnings in the whole prefecture. She says, “Restaurants and grocery stores change all the time. Our efforts in issuing warnings are not alone enough to alert people’s awareness.”