Food allergies rise 12-fold in Australian children
and there is an "urgent need" for further research into the trend,
according to a new study.
The study provides processors with a view of the dietary requirements of consumers of the future and the potential scale that a contamination problem involving allergy-triggering ingredients could have. A "dramatic increase" in the number of children hospitalised as a result of anaphylaxis - the most severe and potentially deadly type of food allergy, was also found during the study, published this month. Over a twelve year period, 1489 children aged between 0 and five years-old were referred to a specialist allergy practice in the Australian Capital Territory, of which found 697, or 47 per cent, suffered from a food allergy. The specialist allergy practice in the Australian Capital Territory that conducted the study found the most common reactions were involved peanuts, eggs, cows milk and cashews. During the study, the number of children tested at the clinic with suspected allergies rose four-fold from 55 in 1955 to 240 in 2006. While the prevalence of non-food allergies, such as hay fever and asthma, experienced little change during the study, food allergies rose from 20 per cent of children tested in 1995 to 57.5 per cent by 2006. The increase from 11 positive cases in 1995 to 138 children referred children suffering from allergies in 2006 translates into a 12-fold increase. The study found that cases of anaphylaxis in youngsters had increased seven-fold from five in 1995 to 37 in 2006. Raymond Mullins, specialist immunologist and allergy specialist, and report author said the cause of the increase needed further investigation. "There is an urgent need for coordinated, systematic studies of the epidemiology of food allergy in Australia and abroad, to ascertain risk factors and guide public health policy," he said. "There are important implications for public health, medical workforce planning, costs of care and the availability of public allergy services." While part of this increase could be attributed to an increasing understanding of the symptoms of allergies, improving parents' ability to spot what is a likely reaction to food, the marked increase demonstrates a trend towards intolerance towards certain foods. The findings do, however, raise questions as to the long-term implications of the increase in food allergies and how the food industry with health services can deal with the growing problem.