I’d always loved meat growing up – sausage sandwiches, lamb cutlets and of course, Christmas ham.
So I was far from thrilled when I discovered that I had developed an allergy to red meat at the age of 14.
I had been bitten by a tick and developed what is now known as a mammalian meat allergy, which saw me develop the potentially life-threatening condition anaphylaxis, which means I have to carry an epi-pen.
One reaction was so severe I had to be taken to hospital in an ambulance after being given a shot of steroids and antihistamines by my GP.
Now at the age of 25 I haven’t had a bite of beef, lamb or pork for years.
But there’s one food that I’ve managed to keep down without breaking out into full-body hives – McDonald’s cheeseburgers.
I’m lovin’ it. Despite being allergic to red meat I’ve managed to keep down McDonald’s cheeseburgers without suffering any reactions
It’s an experience that has both delighted and horrified me.
Usually if I were to sink my teeth into a beef burger, I’d be covered in an agonisingly itchy rash that spreads all over my body from head to toe within five hours.
My last reaction was in 2017, when I was still allowed to eat pork, and had devoured a bacon and egg roll for breakfast.
WHAT IS THE MAMMALIAN MEAT ALLERGY?
Some people who are bitten by a tick can develop what is known as the mammalian meat allergy.
The allergy can mean people can no longer eat beef, ox, lamb, pork, bacon, ham, venison, deer, veal, goat, buffalo, rabbit, kangaroo and in some cases animal by products such as dairy and gelatine.
The allergy is most common along the east coast of Australia, and people can develop it months after being bitten.
Symptoms usually appear between two and 10 hours after meat is consumed and include hives, itchiness, stomach pain, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing, fainting and swelling of the tongue.
About 60 per cent of cases develop anaphylaxis.
It’s believed the allergy comes from a sugar molecule called alpha galactose which can be transferred through tick saliva from animals to humans, but doctors are unclear on how this affects the intolerance to meat.
People are advised to freeze ticks before removing them. You can purchase tick-freezing sprays from chemists.
Hours later, I was writhing on the floor trying to stop myself from scratching the rash that had cropped up all over my body.
Not even a cold shower did the trick and after I started to feel wheezy, I knew this reaction was unlike the others and I was taken to hospital.
A subsequent allergy test confirmed the intolerance had now broadened to include pork. Goodbye Christmas ham.
But it seemed I was immune to ill effects from the $2 cheeseburgers my favourite fast food restaurant sells.
At the age of 25 I haven’t had a bite of beef, lamb or pork in years, courtesy of a tick bite at the age of 14 which caused me to develop an allergy to some meats
Itching mad! If I was to sink my teeth into beef, pork or lamb, within five hours I’d be writhing on the floor in pain trying to stop scratching the rash that had spread all over my body (stock image)
Without second guessing it, I continued to indulge in Macca’s – much to the shock of my friends.
So why can I eat McDonald’s cheeseburgers? After all, we’ve all heard the stories about cheeseburgers that can last years without rotting.
Sydney immunology and allergy specialist Dr Andrew Broadfoot – the same man who tested me for my allergy – said it often comes down to the way a piece of meat is cooked.
‘With red meat especially, cooking is known to influence it and there are a lot of factors in terms of the digestive breakdown,’ he said.
‘In your case [with McDonald’s], there are probably a lot of preservatives.’
When asked if my tolerance for cheeseburgers was unusual, Dr Broadfoot said it wasn’t uncommon for people with the allergy to be able to eat certain foods.
‘I’ve known people to be able to eat a really well-cooked steak,’ he said.
McDonald’s said it uses ‘100 per cent real beef’ in its burgers – but my ability to eat them without suffering a reaction could be down to the way they are cooked
‘It depends on the preparation of the meat and if it’s well cooked. Some people (with the allergy) might be alright because the cooking process has changed the allergen.
‘Whatever the food is prepared with and the temperature it’s being cooked at can influence (a reaction) as well.’
When asked about their cooking processes, McDonald’s confirmed they use ‘100 per cent Australian beef’ in their products.
A spokeswoman did not respond to specific questions – but that won’t stop me from having my favourite meal.
WOMAN CLAIMS MCDONALD’S CHEESEBURGER AND FRIES HASN’T ROTTED IN TEN YEARS
Back in 2016 a Reddit user went viral after posting a photo of a McDonald’s cheeseburger and chips she claims didn’t rot after 10 years.
While the food does look dry and hard, there is no visible mould and it doesn’t appear to have decayed in any way.
A Post-it note attached to the plate stated, ‘Purchased April 2006. Never refrigerated. Do not eat!’
The McDonald’s burger and fries which has been left on a plate for 10 years. Reddit user standbacknow posted a photo of the food and said someone he knew had bought in April 2006. The food has no visible mould and simply looks dry and hard
Some were disgusted by the idea of food looking exactly the same after 10 years, but other insisted that it was the high salt levels and low amount of moisture in the burger and fries that kept it looking fresh.
McDonald’s has previously come under fire for its food lasting for abnormally long periods of time without rotting.
In 2010, Jennifer Lovdahl, 33, a chiropractor living in Anchorage, Alaska, bought a happy meal at McDonald’s and left it sitting in her office for six years.
Long lasting: Jennifer Lovdahl took to Facebook to share this photo of a McDonald’s Happy Meal she claims she purchased in 2010 to show that it had yet to decompose six years later
The fast food chain insists that its food will rot under the right conditions.
‘Food needs moisture in the air for mould to form,’ McDonald’s explains.
‘Without it, food will simply dry out – sort of like bread left out on a counter overnight to make croutons for stuffing.
‘You might have seen experiments which seem to show no decomposition in our food. Most likely, this is because the food has dehydrated before any visible deterioration could occur.’