Off Food Allergies
In a perfect
world, preventing food-allergy attacks would be as easy as knowing
which foods you're allergic to and simply avoiding them.
But in the
real world, it's not quite so easy. No matter how careful people
are about trying to avoid foods that give them adverse reactions,
they're still susceptible because of everything from uninformed
waiters to improperly labeled foods.
the conclusions of several studies on food allergies presented
at the recent annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy,
Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) in New Orleans.
studies was research showing that allergy sufferers and dining
establishments must often take equal blame for exposure to allergens.
at 706 people who'd had at least one allergic reaction associated
with restaurant dining, the researchers found that in half the
cases, the food item was "hidden" in sauces, dressings or egg
Yet in only
38 percent of the cases did the allergy sufferers themselves warn
the establishment of the extent of their allergies.
for instance, ask, 'Does this dessert have nuts in it?' And the
waiter might say, 'No,'" says Dr. Scott Sicherer, an assistant
professor of pediatrics at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute in
the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
"But the customer
wouldn't have indicated that the reason they're asking is because
they might be deadly allergic to it. The waiter may, meanwhile,
just think they're asking to find out how many calories are in
it," he adds.
number of exposures to allergens (19 percent) occurred at Asian
restaurants. Other establishments with high rates included ice
cream shops (14 percent) and bakery/doughnut shops (13 percent).
In 18 percent
of the allergic episodes, the problems were caused by "cross-contamination,"
in which ice cream equipment and cooking/serving supplies were
used to handle different foods.
that's because those establishments tend to use a lot of nut products.
"For instance, in an ice cream shop, you can have someone come
in and order vanilla, but the person behind the counter will use
a scoop that has some rocky road left over on [it]."
the findings should be a wake-up call to allergy sufferers about
the risks of eating out, but they don't necessarily mean the sufferers
can't dine out at all.
line is that, for people who suffer from food allergies -- over
3 million Americans -- restaurants pose a particular problem.
But if they really want to eat out, the main thing we suggest
is that they have strong communication with the correct people
at the restaurant," Sicherer says.
important to remember that it may not be the waiter they need
to talk to. It may be the chef, or some other staff member who
has more to do with food preparation," he adds.
food establishments need to train staffers to be more aware of
the seriousness of food allergies and the ways cross-contamination
can occur, Sicherer says.
But even retreating
to in-home dining holds risks for food-allergy sufferers, according
to another of Sicherer's studies.
221 calls to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network Institute's
hotline and found that more than half the callers were concerned
by unlabeled ingredients.
problems reported to the hotline included ingredient changes in
new versions of old products (46 calls), incorrect contents in
a package (15 calls), and foreign-language labels with incorrect
ingredients listed in English (three calls).
his colleagues on the study called for stricter labeling practices
as well as increased awareness and education for patients to remedy
month, the food industry announced new guidelines for simplifying
the language on food-product labels. It also plans to identify
more thoroughly the ingredients that could cause food allergies.
will make life a lot easier and take the mystery out of label
reading," says Anne Munoz-Furlong, founder of the Food Allergy
Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN).
FAAN and more
than 18 food companies worked together to produce the voluntary
guidelines, which clarify how to best warn consumers with food
allergies on choosing their foods.
Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology for additional information.
Reference Source 89