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.
As reported in the Daily Mail, a new UK study published in the medical journal Allergy finds that for every child diagnosed with a milk allergy via blood and skin prick tests, another goes undiagnosed that will suffer a reaction.
Dr Kate Grimshaw, a specialist pediatric dietitian at Southampton Children’s Hospital, reported that not all allergies can be detected by measuring levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody, which is linked to allergic reactions.
Dr Grimshaw, who participated in the EuroPrevall study funded by the European Union, said:
We know that sometimes if a child is seen for a possible food allergic reaction – to any food, not just milk – but tests show there is no measurable IgE, then a possible food reaction may be ruled out, when in fact the child may be reacting to the food, just not via IgE. This research will hopefully highlight to GPs and non-allergy specialists that just because an IgE test is negative, the child may in fact be reacting to a food and further investigations should be carried out.
The study, which followed over 9,000 babies from nine European countries until age two, found that 1.3% of children from the UK reacted to milk within two hours, but only 45% had IgE levels associated with symptoms.
ABC News Australia reports that a study of hospital admissions in the country from 2005 to 2013 found a 50% jump in children admitted for anaphylaxis.
Professor Mimi Tang of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) said the highest rates of hospital admission were for younger children, but that rates for older children aged 5-14 more than doubled.
“What we think is happening is that more children are getting food allergies but of concern, these allergies tend to be peanut, tree nut and shellfish that you don’t grow out of,” she said.
In a study of discharge data collected over 5 years from over 200 hospitals in Illinois, it was determined that emergency room visits and hospitalizations of children with severe food allergies rose an average of 30% each year between 2008 and 2012.
The study, led by Dr. Ruchi Gupta, professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and attending physician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, focused on children that suffered anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction.
Previously, white children and those from higher-income families were affected most by food allergies, but the study shows that the rates of Hispanic, African American and lower-income children are skyrocketing as well.
“This study shows that severe food allergies are beginning to impact children of all races and income. This is no longer primarily a disease of children who are white and/or from middle-to-high income families. Nobody is immune to it,” said Dr Gupta.
The May edition of the Allergic Living News Report – dedicated to Food Allergy Awareness Month – features a free, must-read e-booklet entitled: “18 Things You Need to Know About Food Allergy Reactions”.
This resource as especially valuable for families coping with food allergies as well as teachers, school nurses, restauranteurs, and everyone else that deals with the public in a setting involving food. Distributed as an easy-to-download PDF that can be viewed on your PC, tablet and phone, it provides a summary of important facts, strategies, and statistics to keep in mind should you or a loved one experience (or suspect) an anaphylactic reaction. The publication is structured in an easy-to-read read conversational format and covers many topics such as “Severe reactions: are they rare or frequent?”, “Define anaphylaxis”, and “When antihistamines don’t measure up”.
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A study of the accidental exposure of children with physician-confirmed peanut allergy was published in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Allergy earlier this month.
The parents of 1941 children were recruited from Canadian allergy clinics and allergy advocacy organizations over a ten year period beginning in 2004, who completed questionnaires regarding the accidental exposure to peanuts of their children over the preceding year and the results were correlated.
On February 23rd at this year’s annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) in Houston, a study was presented regarding incidence of anaphylaxis in schools during the 2013-2014 school year, confirming the need for stock epinephrine.
Of 5683 schools that responded to the study survey, a total of 919 anaphylactic events were reported by 11% of the schools. Here’s a quick breakdown:
Allergic Living’s site features an exclusive interview with Dr Helen Brough, lead author of a British study showing an association between high levels of peanut residue in homes, genetic factors for eczema, and increased incidence of peanut allergy.
The study examined peanut residue by vacuuming the sofas in 577 UK homes with babies in the first year of life. These children were later revisited at 8 and 11 years old and tested for peanut allergy along with a mutation in their genes associated with eczema. The results showed that children with the mutation were 3 times as likely to develop peanut allergy in homes with 3 times the quantity of peanut residue found in the household dust.
Children suffering food-induced anaphylaxis (FIA) were less than half as likely to need hospitalization if they received epinephrine prior to visiting the hospital emergency department. This was the finding of a study published in September in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.
The study, conducted at Hasbro Children’s Hospital/Rhode Island Hospital, reviewed the charts of 384 emergency department visits for FIA during a six year period beginning January 1, 2004. Of these, 234 (61%) received treatment with epinephrine prior to the visit (the “early” receivers of epinephrine.)
Mainstream publications serving the food and beverage industry are beginning to turn their attention to the issue of food allergies. We noted a previous article describing our Manufacturer Partnership Program and Safe Snack Guide in Food Navigator-USA last month. This time, Gourmet News, a publication dedicated to the Gourmet industry, is highlighting the issue.
This month’s edition features two front page articles intended to provide coverage and raise awareness within the industry. We’re proud to announce that SnackSafely.com founder, Debra Bloom, features prominently in both.
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