You can blame genetically modified food for many things, but allergens are not one of them. The main reason is the major culprits such as peanuts, shellfish, milk and eggs are not genetically modified, at least as of yet. This article explains some of the future risks of genetically modifying food and how regulatory agencies are keeping a close eye on this research. Possible explanations are given for the current surge in allergies in children, as well as current methods to help prevent these allergies.
Over the last 30 years, reported cases of food allergies — especially in young children — have gone up.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4 percent of children under 18 have some kind of food or digestive allergy. That number represents an increase of 18 percent for all food allergies among children between 1997 and 2007.
For some foods, the increase has been even greater. For example, peanut allergy prevalence has quadrupled from 0.4 percent in 1997 to more than 2 percent in 2010. In fact, peanut allergy is now the leading cause of anaphylactic shock — the most severe form of allergy — due to food in the United States. And the problem isn’t just confined to the US: hospital admissions for food-related anaphylaxis has seen a seven-fold rise in the United Kingdom since 1990.
“When in doubt, just do it!” A recent study by Canadian researchers found the best possible outcomes for those experiencing anaphylaxis resulted when epinephrine was administered before the patient reached the hospital. With 3,500 participants, the study also found that administering steroids and antihistamines can have a negative effect on patient outcomes. Antihistamines are part of many treatment plans in a pre-hospital setting for managing anaphylaxis (such as in schools or at home). This is certainly something that should be addressed in the medical community since many treatment plans given to schools indicate that Benadryl should be administered first. Sadly, less than one-third of anaphylactic reactions in these 3,500 patients were treated with epinephrine before arriving at the hospital, while antihistamines were used in 46 percent of cases.
Involving nearly 3,500 patients, it is the largest study to assess the clinical outcomes of pre-hospital treatment of anaphylaxis, including the use of epinephrine autoinjector, antihistamines (such as diphenhydramine known most commonly as its brand name Benadryl) and corticosteroids. Of the patients examined, 80 percent were children aged 1 to 17 years.
Just as our excitement was building for peanut oral immunotherapy (OIT), a recent study cautions that there may be more harm than good, with an increase of severe allergic reaction three times greater than if a person simply continued to practice avoidance. Some parents of children who have had success with OIT strongly disagree with these findings, and hope the FDA continues with its approval process. They say any reactions are happening more in a controlled environment at home rather than in a public place such as a restaurant in an emergency situation.
A systematic review of peanut oral immunotherapy that compared 12 controlled studies has brought a longstanding “pro or con” debate over whether OIT is ready for widespread use spilling out into the news media.
The analysis, published April 25 in The Lancet, has generated discussion, “more harm than good?” headlines as well as controversy in the food allergy community. It lands at a time when an increasing number of allergists’ offices are starting to offer the therapy, growing numbers of food allergy families are expressing interest in treatment – and just as the FDA is about to consider approval for a standardized peanut allergy OIT biologic drug.
The review, led by Canadian allergist Dr. Derek Chu, concluded that undergoing peanut OIT results in a risk of severe allergic reaction three times greater than if a person with peanut allergy simply continued to practice avoidance of the legume. The frequency of anaphylaxis rose from 7.1% among those who were on placebo or avoidance in the dozen studies to 22.2% for those on peanut treatment.
Heaven forbid that a family pre-board a flight before an airline thinks they are supposed to! The MacKenzie family of Washington state has a daughter with multiple food allergies, and they simply wanted to wipe down the seating area before two American Airlines flights. The airline refused, but the Department of Transportation sided with the family, stating that food allergies should be considered a disability under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). American has since updated its policy, but only for those with tree and peanut allergies.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has found American Airlines in violation of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) for failing to allow the family of a girl with multiple food allergies the right to pre-board two flights. It has issued a warning to the airline about this violation.
DOT found that the refusal to allow the Washington state family to pre-board flights to and from Portland to Charlotte, NC (via Dallas), was a violation of ACAA’s provision that allows pre-boarding for disabilities. Nicole MacKenzie had phoned the airline asking that she and her family be allowed to pre-board their September 2016 flights, so that they could wipe down the seating area before general boarding.
The mother said her daughter Isla, then 7 years old, has severe allergies to tree nuts, peanuts and sesame. Wiping the area was meant to reduce the chance the girl would be exposed to residue from her allergens. At that time, MacKenzie was told this was against the policy of American Airlines (AA), which specifically denied pre-boarding for food allergies.
There is a big difference between a food “intolerance” and a food allergy, and overuse of the word allergy can cause many to not take the threat seriously. Here’s a story of one teenager who had to stand up in front of her entire middle school and explain the dangers of her peanut allergy. She has learned to advocate for her own safety, and encourages all skeptics to take people living with severe allergies very seriously. Even today there are those in the medical community and the media who believe that the fear around allergies is alarmist and can be driven by profit-seeking and other motives. They should “walk in another man’s moccasins” for a day and then see what it is like to live with a life-threatening allergy.
Patricia “Trece” Hopp rose and took a deep breath at the start of middle school with something to say. She’d need her classmates’ understanding, she nervously explained, and perhaps their help.
Being near a peanut-butter sandwich might pock her skin with hives. A whiff of dust from nuts could hinder her breathing. Touching a peanut could send her into anaphylactic shock. And if she ate one, she could die.
Thereafter, “I was the girl with the peanut allergy,” says Trece, now 17. “It’s my identity. It’s part of me.” A part she has to not only remind people about but also repeatedly explain.