A newly published article provides further evidence that the prevalence of food allergies among children is increasing. The article, "Food Allergy Among Children in the United States" appears in the December issue of Pediatrics, a US medical journal. According to the study, 3.9% of children under 18 had a food allergy, an 18 percent increase from 1997-2007. In addition, visits to ambulatory facilities related to food allergies nearly tripled between 1993-1997 and 2003-2006. While the evidence is based on American studies, Canadian trends with respect to the percentage of children affected by food allergy are thought to mirror those of the US, given similarities in lifestyle. A food allergy prevalence study initiated by AllerGen, the Allergy, Genes and Environment Network and co-sponsored by Health Canada, is expected to be released next year.
Anaphylaxis Canada, the national non-profit advocacy organization, hopes the new report will help debunk the growing trend in some quarters to question the prevalence and severity of food allergy. The latest example is from an article in the December issue of Chatelaine magazine entitled "It's just nuts" which infuriated many families with children at risk of anaphylaxis, including Sara Shannon who lost her daughter Sabrina to an anaphylactic reaction in 2003. An open letter from Sara to Chatelaine's publishers is posted on our website at http://anaphylaxis.ca/content/whatsnew/hot_topics.asp
"Peanut allergy is not a myth", says Laurie Harada, Executive Director of Anaphylaxis Canada and the mother of an allergic teen, "nor is allergy to many other foods that are a staple of North American diets. Publication of this study is the latest evidence that food allergy and the life-threatening reactions it can cause is a growing public health concern."
The results of this study do not come as a surprise to Anaphylaxis Canada. For more than a decade, the organization has been responding to public concern over allergies with a number of initiatives including working with provincial ministries of education to develop anaphylaxis management programs in schools, advocating for changes to Canada's food labelling regulations and launching a special website for youth with food allergies.
"Anaphylaxis Canada will continue to work with families, schools and communities to develop reasonable measures to deal with the reality of increasing food allergy among children," said Harada. "The bottom line is about keeping our kids safe".