The importer of a coconut drink linked to the death of a 10 year-old Melbourne boy in 2013 was fined AUD $18,000.
Narkena Pty Ltd – a food importer based in Sydney, Australia – had pleaded guilty to three charges relating to the packing and labeling of Greentime Natural Coconut Drink imported from Taiwan.
Australia’s New South Wales Food Authority determined the drink contained condensed milk which was not declared on the label. The product was recalled after the child’s death.
“It is relevant that the death of a child precipitated the investigation and led to the charges,” said Jennifer Atkinson, the local magistrate who imposed the fines. “The company relied on the information from the manufacturer rather than making its own inquiries.”
The company was fined $6000 for each of three charges and ordered to pay an additional $24,000 for costs related to their investigation. The maximum fine that could have been imposed was $10,000 for each charge.
“If you import from countries that are non-English speaking, it is really important to get the correct information, to get it right because food allergy is not just about people complaining about a food choice. It can be a life and death issue,” said Maria Said, president of Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia.
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While parents of children diagnosed with food allergies battle to keep their kids safe, a new study shows that it is not only their children that are at risk for developing life-threatening anaphylaxis at school.
The study, to be presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference & Exhibition in Washington DC this week, looked at schools that participated in the EPIPENS4SCHOOLS program during the 2013-14 school year. The program, sponsored by Mylan Specialty, provides stock epinephrine auto-injectors to 59,000 public and private, elementary, middle and high schools across the United States for use during anaphylactic emergencies.
Among the 6,019 schools responding to the survey, 919 anaphylactic events were reported with 22% of the cases occurring in individuals with no prior history of allergy. These children would not have had access to their own prescribed auto-injector.
Legislation that would provide for stock epinephrine in places of public accommodation has cleared committees and is now under consideration by the New Jersey Senate and General Assembly.
Entitled the Epinephrine Access and Emergency Treatment Act, the bill (designated S-2884 and A-4094) would allow individuals who have completed an approved training course to maintain and administer epinephrine auto-injectors for emergency use, and employers of those individuals to obtain stock epinephrine for use by them. The legislation also provides the necessary “Good Samaritan” provisions to shield all involved from liability when epinephrine is administered in good faith during an anaphylactic emergency.
Anaphylaxis is a serious, sometimes life-threatening allergic reaction to a food, medication or insect sting. Epinephrine is the only approved treatment for anaphylaxis and should be administered as soon as anaphylaxis is suspected.
Readers of our blog are familiar with the Hom family, who lost their son and brother BJ to anaphylaxis more than seven years ago. His passing portended a trend of anaphylaxis-related tragedies that has accelerated since then, coinciding with the meteoric rise of the incidence of food allergies.
In memory of BJ Hom, Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT) is sponsoring the FAACT California Bay Area Walk/Run for Food Allergies, with all proceeds raised from the event to support FAACT’s education and advocacy initiatives as well as Stanford’s Sean N Parker Center for Allergy Research.
There’s still time to register for the October 3 event if you plan to be nearby and would like to participate. You can also make a donation in memory of BJ or to honor that special someone in your family coping with food allergies by clicking here.
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By now you may have read of yet another food allergy-related tragedy, the passing of Simon Katz, a 16-year old student of Chatfield High School in Littleton, Colorado. He was rushed to the hospital on Monday after inadvertently taking a bite of a s’more made with peanut butter at a school homecoming celebration after suffering anaphylactic symptoms. He was pronounced dead at the hospital despite multiple shots of epinephrine and CPR administered by his father on the way.
This was the second report of a teen death due to anaphylaxis in a week, yet another horrific nightmare to befall a member of the allergic community. Our heartfelt and deepest sympathies are with the Katz family.
As we generally do when anaphylaxis-related tragedies appear in the news, we seek out the only good that can come from such reports, namely learning from the experience to prevent such occurrences in the future. Here are a number of extenuating circumstances that were reported in the media:
- Simon did not have his epinephrine auto-injectors on-hand
He had a habit of keeping his auto-injectors in his car, but he caught a ride to school that day with his friends. By the time his friends were able to transport him home, he was vomiting and suffering severe symptoms.
Early administration of epinephrine is paramount to the successful treatment of anaphylaxis and it should be administered as soon as symptoms present themselves, or immediately after inadvertently ingesting an allergen that has caused anaphylaxis in the past as directed by your physician. On the best day, Simon’s epinephrine was waiting in the parking lot and administration would have been delayed; on this, the worst day, his epinephrine was not available, possibly costing him his life.
- He was taken home instead of straight to the emergency department of the closest hospital
Simon was in the throes of a severe anaphylactic response to a known allergen, a medical emergency by any definition. While we sympathize with his friends who thought they were doing the right thing, they should have been educated to seek immediate medical attention for him.
- He consumed an unwrapped food that did not come from home
Simon’s father, David Katz, told reporters that s’mores were one of Simon’s favorite treats, but he mistakenly ate one that was made with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. It is presumed the peanut butter was the trigger of his allergic response.
Researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center may have solved a crucial piece of the puzzle in determining why some people with food allergies have relatively mild reactions while others suffer full-blown anaphylaxis.
The team fed egg white to mice specially bred to react to the protein. They found that the mice with large quantities of mucosal mast cells (MMC9) in their intestines produced large quantities of interleukin 9 (IL-9) – known to amplify reactions. The mice with MMC9 cells subsequently reacted with severe anaphylaxis-like symptoms while those without them did not. The source of IL-9 was previously unknown.
The researchers then eliminated the MMC9 cells in the mice with an antibody and the anaphylactic symptoms ceased. When the mast cells were restored, the reactions returned.
Global News has provided additional details regarding the Andrea Mariano tragedy. The teen, who was enjoying her second day of campus life as a psychology student at Queen’s University in Ontario Friday, perished as a result of an anaphylactic reaction.
Ms Mariano, who was allergic to both dairy and peanuts, consumed a smoothie that was cross-contaminated with one of her allergens. It is unclear whether the smoothie came from a campus outlet or the university dining hall, and which allergen was the cause.
A student who had just begun her college studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, died as a result of a severe allergic reaction, the school website reports.
The family of Andrea Mariano of Thornhill, Ontario indicated the cause of her death was anaphylaxis. While they provided no details as to the likely allergen trigger, Allergic Living magazine reports that Ms Mariano was known to have a severe peanut allergy.
The Queen’s University website stated that flags on campus will be flown at half-staff and that grief counseling is available through the University’s health services. Our deepest sympathies go out to the Mariano Family and friends of Ms Mariano.
We know that many parents of young adults with food allergies are concerned as they send their children off to school. We urge you to take every opportunity to remind them to protect themselves by following some basic guidelines:
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After conducting an investigation into how sesame-allergic consumers can protect themselves, The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) issued a scathing report entitled “Open Sesame: Why Sesame Must Be Disclosed As an Allergen on Food Labels” and renewed calls upon the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to include sesame in their list of allergens that require special labeling.
Some background: An estimated 300,000-500,000 people in the US suffer from sesame allergy. Robert Wood, MD, Director of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is cited in the report as saying: “Sesame allergies have probably increased more than any other type of food allergy over the past 10 to 20 years. They’re now clearly one of the six or seven most common allergens in the U.S.”
The Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) mandates manufacturers clearly label when any of eight allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish) are ingredients of a food product. Others, like sesame, can be listed under obscure names such as “spices” or “natural flavoring”.
CSPI enlisted the help of families affected by sesame allergy to compile a list of companies that do not disclose sesame in ingredient lists or voluntary allergen statements. The organization then contacted companies on the list to inquire about their sesame disclosure practices.
The results were shocking: many of the companies contacted would not disclose the sesame content of their products even when responding to direct inquiries. The report states:
The prevalence of nondisclosure among food-makers we contacted suggests a pervasive and dangerous lack of information about a life-threatening risk for consumers. Indeed, of the dozens of food makers contacted, only three – Kraft, General Mills, and Mondelez – include sesame currently in allergen labeling for products. Some companies, like Frito-Lay, do not warn of sesame content on product packaging but will disclose sesame content if a consumer calls to request information. But many companies – including major food manufacturers that make dozens of products – do not disclose the presence of sesame on labels and will not tell a consumer if they ask for that information. The task of conducting meticulous research to determine whether foods are safe to eat is a risky system that should not be imposed upon the public.
The September Issue of The Journal of Dermatology includes a case report by Akiko Yagami, MD, from the Fujita Health University School of Medicine, of a 30 year old woman who suffered anaphylactic symptoms after eating soy. She had no history of soy allergy or eczema prior to becoming an esthetician at age 23, but started developing symptoms of itchy eczema a few months after starting working with cosmetic lotions.
She tested positive to an IgE test for soy as well as for skin prick tests to soy extract, soy milk, and a cosmetic lotion frequently used by the patient.
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