IDF changes food allergy policy against expert medical advice


Israeli soldiers who suffer from food allergies and rely on epinephrine autoinjectors (epipens) for emergencies have been able to join the IDF with specific medical profiles that allow them to serve in various front line positions with certain restrictions. However, in recent weeks, numerous soldiers and IDF personnel have expressed their surprise and dismay after discovering a sudden change in the army’s policy. Their medical profiles have been downgraded to the point of discharge or exemption, despite no deterioration in their health conditions and no apparent reason for the decision.

Doctors treating these soldiers have revealed that they were not consulted by IDF officials before this decision was made, which affects a considerable number of their patients.

Prof. Arnon Elitzur, director of the Children’s Allergy, Immunology and Pulmonary Institute at Shamir Medical Center (Assaf Harofeh) and chairman of the Association for Allergy and Clinical Immunology in Israel, expressed his concerns to Maariv, stating that “unfortunately, this decision contradicts the recommendations from experts and was made without any further dialogue with us. We are not aware of any recent unusual food reactions or integration difficulties faced by soldiers with food allergies in the army. Therefore, it remains unclear what prompted this harmful change.”

He further explained, “These soldiers fall into two groups – those who experience allergic reactions to specific foods and those who have undergone treatment and are now able to consume the food they were allergic to while remaining cautious and carrying epinephrine for emergencies. Food allergies are complex, with differing levels of risk depending on the type of food and other factors. Unfortunately, this decision fails to consider these parameters and disregards the recommendations of allergy experts. It is a severe blow to individuals who want to serve in the IDF, especially given the [ongoing war with Hamas in Gaza.”

Elitzur concluded by urging the head of the IDF Medical Screening Division and the chief physician to engage in dialogue with the union to improve the medical profiles and service conditions for soldiers with food allergies.

Israeli soldiers pray near the Israel-Gaza border on its Israeli side during a temporary truce between Hamas and Israel, in southern Israel, November 26, 2023 (credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)

How have IDF soldiers been impacted by the new food allergy policy?

One affected soldier, A., shared their story with Maariv. A. was supposed to join the navy base in Haifa. However, without any logical reason or a change in their condition, their medical profile dropped from 64 to 45, rendering them unfit for the job in the IDF they were supposed to get, despite having a letter from their doctor confirming they were fit for service.


Similarly, a female soldier who had undergone specialized treatment for nut allergies saw a significant decrease in her medical profile, dropping from 64 to 21, while she was already in training for her position. Her parents expressed their confusion, stating that the IDF had initially acknowledged her limitations and granted her a profile of 64. They questioned the sudden change when there was no change in her condition.

All the families interviewed by Maariv, who preferred to remain anonymous, raised concerns about the timing of this decision amid the ongoing war with Hamas in Gaza.

“We are unsure when this decision was made, but it seems illogical to implement such a change in the middle of a conflict. These soldiers serve in frontline positions, and nothing has changed regarding their base conditions,” they emphasized.

In response to the inquiries, an IDF spokesperson stated that the decision was made due to changes in the IDF’s food system, ensuring their safety. “Each candidate’s medical profile is individually determined based on their health condition, taking into account every unique case. The IDF aims to accommodate each candidate and soldier within the military framework, promoting meaningful service while prioritizing their health.”

The Yahel organization, representing Israelis with food allergies, denounced the decision, stating, “This sweeping decision, made without consulting us or doctors who are experts in the field of allergies, jeopardizes thousands of Israelis who are capable of military service. It will inevitably result in hundreds of thousands of people with allergies being rejected by the IDF.

“While the world progresses, it seems the IDF is regressing. People with allergies who live normal lives despite their allergies should be able to serve in the army without hindrance.

“We are not talking about young children who do not understand. Boys and girls over the age of 18 are already adults and have been living this way for long enough. Today, there are all the conditions to allow them to enlist according to their abilities and not prevent them from serving in the IDF… In general, treating all people with allergies as a monolith is a mistake. Each case should be examined individually – the decision is discouraging and harmful and also affects those already in active service. We call on the IDF to freeze the decision and reassess, together with us and medical professional, how people with food allergies can serve.”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *