Food allergies: Rare but risky

 

  • Asthma, a disease with allergic underpinnings, was common to all children in the study.
  • Epinephrine should be prescribed and kept available for those with severe food allergies.
  • Children who have an allergic reaction should be observed for three to four hours after a reaction in a medical center capable of dealing with anaphylaxis.

Anne Munoz-Furlong, who founded The Food Allergy Network for people with food allergies in 1991 after struggling to deal with her own child's allergies, comments: "My youngest daughter was diagnosed with milk and egg allergies when she was 9 months old, nine years ago. We tried to lead a life around her restricted diet. For example, we had Jell-O mold for her first birthday because I didn't know it was possible to create a cake without milk or eggs. I knew there must be other families struggling with the same issue."

FINDING THE FORBIDDEN

Because there is no "cure" for food allergies other than strict avoidance of an offending food, one of the biggest problems those with food allergies face is verifying whether a forbidden product is contained in a particular food. For example, in Sampson's study, all six deaths occurred because either the child or the parent was unaware the food contained a substance to which the child was allergic. Munoz-Furlong says the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, which requires more complete food labeling, should greatly help people with food allergies to avoid dangerous foods.

"The new labeling changes will make it easier for the consumer to readily identify things they could be allergic to," says Linda Tollefson, D.V.M., chief of the epidemiology branch at FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. "Before this law was passed, true allergens were required to be on the label, but the exceptions were standardized foods, which will now have to list all ingredients."

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