News – 2007

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Published: July 2, 2010

Allergy News – 2007

Labels Will Now Show ‘Hidden’ Allergens

New regulations governing food labeling of allergens in Canada have been oft-delayed, but Health Canada finally has good news on that file.
The department has announced interim guidelines to food manufacturers that end exemptions for undeclared, “hidden ingredients” in packaged foods. So when a seasoning, flour or margarine is an ingredient of a packaged food’s ingredients and contains a priority allergen – that allergen will now need to be named on the label. Similarly, previously vague ingredients such as “hydrolyzed protein” or “natural flavour” will now have to specify if they contain top allergens. (The priority allergens are: peanut, tree nut, milk, egg, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, sesame and sulphites.)
Samuel Benrejeb Godefroy, director of the bureau of chemical safety for Health Canada’s Food Directorate, announced the interim guidelines at the Governors’ Foundation’s International Conference on Food Allergies in Montreal in early November. Read more

Posted: December 9/07

Peanut Allergy on the Rise

Yet-to-be released research on Montreal schoolchildren shows the incidence of peanut allergy has increased significantly – to almost 2 per cent of pupils. This makes it the highest such prevalence ever measured.
The findings are early results of the second phase in a study of peanut allergy incidence in pupils in kindergarten up to Grade 3 across the island of Montreal. In the first phase of the study, completed in 2002, Dr. Ann Clarke and Dr. Rhoda Kagan and their team revealed a high level of peanut allergy in young Montrealers: 1.5 per cent. “I did not believe that in five years we would see this increase” to a new level of 1.99 per cent, says Clarke, a professor of medicine at McGill University. Read more

Posted: December 9/07

B.C. Unveils Anaphylaxis and Schools Framework

The British Columbia Ministry of Education has issued a ministerial order that makes it a requirement for every public school district to have an anaphylaxis policy to protect allergic children. While not technically legislation – such as Sabrina’s Law in Ontario – such an order must be followed.
In September, the ministry announced that policies must be consistent with the new B.C. Anaphylactic Child and Safety Framework, which was drawn up last summer with the input of allergists, health officials, educators, parents, Anaphylaxis Canada and the Allergy/ Asthma Information Association (AAIA). Specifically, school boards must: develop a process for identifying students at risk of anaphylaxis; ensure school staff, food services staff and volunteers are trained at least once a year on allergy prevention, auto-injector use and emergency procedures; ensure that principals communicate allergy policies to their school communities; and institute practices to report and review any allergic reactions on school grounds. Read more

Posted: December 9/07

Food Allergy Readiness Lacking

Most Canadians with life-threatening allergies are not carrying the life-saving drug epinephrine with them. In addition to that worrying trend, a national survey reveals that a majority of Canadians would not know what to do if faced with a person having a serious allergic reaction.
The survey of 1,500 Canadians, released in late August, was commissioned by King Pharma, the makers of the EpiPen epinephrine auto-injector, in collaboration with Anaphylaxis Canada. “For those individuals who know they are at risk, it’s essential that they follow the advice of their physician and carry their auto-injector at all times and know how to use it,” said Laurie Harada, executive director of Anaphylaxis Canada. “People have died due to a delay in getting epinephrine during an allergic reaction.” Read more

Posted: September 6/07

‘Safe’ Peanut Debate

News in July that researchers at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University have developed a process to make an allergen-free peanut was met with a flurry of excitement in the media, followed by considerable skepticism in the allergic community. While the agricultural researcher involved, Mohamed Ahmedna, sees much potential in his findings, even he cautions there is more work and testing to be done before his legumes could be deemed “safe” for the peanut-allergic. Read more

Posted: September 6/07

Write-in for Food Labeling

Allergic Living reported this spring that the long-awaited Canadian regulations governing the labeling of allergens on food packages had stalled. Now five allergy and celiac groups have joined forces in a campaign to press the federal government to finally pass the new rules – which call for plain English names for allergens, and eliminate several of the current labeling exemptions.
The groups are urging as many people as possible to write a letter to the minister of health and Health Canada in support of these changes. (You don’t have to have allergies or a child with allergies to support these important regulations!) See the details on the regulations and a sample letter to the minister here. Enlist friends, relatives, and let’s get this potentially lifesaving legislation passed.
The organizations spearheading this campaign are: the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Anaphylaxis Canada, the Allergy/Asthma Information Association, the Association québécoise des allergies alimentaires and the Canadian Celiac Association.

Posted: June 11/07

B.C. Anaphylaxis Bill

A proposed anaphylaxis schools bill failed to pass in the Legislature of British Columbia in late May. While disappointed, advocates lobbying for the private member’s Bill M 210, which had been introduced by an opposition MLA, vowed to continue their campaign.
The parent group PACT (Protect Allergic Children Today) was also heartened that, in response to the outpouring of support for such a law, the B.C. government immediately set up an advisory committee of experts a task force to consider whether a policy or a law was the best means of arriving at a consistent, effective approach in the schools to anaphylaxis, the life-threatening form of food and insect sting reaction.
Speaking for the government in the Legislature on May 28, MLA Joan McIntyre said: “This government is committed to having a provincial framework in place by this September at the start of school to support all schools across the province in ensuring that they have the best possible safety practices.”
PACT strongly favours an anaphylaxis law as the best option, and spokesperson Caroline Posynick said the group will press the government to introduce legislation similar to Sabrina’s Law in Ontario. Sabrina’s Law includes strategies for heightening awareness of anaphylaxis in all public schools, reducing the risk of allergen exposure and staff training and readiness for anaphylactic emergencies.
The failed Bill M 210, which was introduced by NDP education critic David Cubberley, gained impressive support, including: the CSACI (the national allergists’ association); the provincial parents’ advisory council; the Canadian Union of Public Employees (which represents school support staff); the B.C. paramedics association; the Allergy/Asthma Information Association and Anaphylaxis Canada.

Posted: June 11/07

Alberta Guidelines

After nine months of consultation, the Alberta School Boards Association was set to release a new policy on anaphylaxis in the schools in early June. Though comprehensive, the guidelines will be voluntary, and each school board will be able to choose how much of them to implement.
Alberta’s Ministry of Education gave a grant to the ASBA to develop the guidelines. Early on, the committee began leaning to voluntary compliance rather than legislation like Ontario’s Sabrina’s Law. The committee was led by consultant Sig Schmold, along with parents, school council representatives, school superintendents and the AAIA, in consultation with an allergist and Anaphylaxis Canada.

Posted: June 11/07

Dining Dangers Revealed

A recently published survey of food service workers found that their personal comfort level in managing customers’ food allergies far exceeds their knowledge.
The U.S. study found that about 90 per cent of managers, wait staff and chefs expressed varying degrees of “comfort” in providing a safe meal for customers with food allergies. Yet the findings, published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, pointed to some glaring and dangerous misconceptions among these staff.
A quarter thought removing an allergen from a finished meal – for instance, picking a nut off a salad – was safe. Nearly a quarter thought that eating a small amount of an allergen was safe, 35 per cent thought that high heat destroys allergens and 54 per cent considered a buffet safe if it was kept “clean.” Only 42 per cent of the staff had received any food allergy training.
Authors Ryan Ahuja, a student, and Dr. Scott Sicherer, allergist and associate professor of pediatrics at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, received completed questionnaires from about 100 staff at various New York food establishments – from sit-down restaurants to fast-food outlets. From Allergic Living magazine. Read more

Posted: June 11/07

Victoria Teen Dies

As interest in B.C. turned to anaphylaxis, looming in the background was the death of a Victoria teen with allergies.
After school on March 29, Carley Kohnen, 13, went to the local mall with friends. They bought snacks, with Carley eating a burrito. The friends later said Carley had told the server of her allergies to dairy and peanut. But at a nearby park not long afterward, Carley began struggling to breathe. The girl had left her EpiPen auto-injector in her locker, and although the friends called an ambulance, Carley succumbed to anaphylactic shock.
At a rally for a new anaphylaxis schools law in early May, Sara Shannon drew a parallel between Carley and her daughter, Sabrina. Both happy, energetic girls were struck down tragically at the age of 13.
See also, Gwen Smith’s Editor’s column Death of a Child.”

Posted: June 11/07

Antibiotic Helps Adult Asthma

An English study finds that the antibiotic telithromycin, sometimes used to treat infections such as bronchitits and sinusitus, reduces symptoms and hastens recovery after an acute asthma attack.
Researchers at the National Heart and Lung Institute recruited 278 adults who had experienced an asthma attack requiring hospitalization within the previous 24 hours to participate in the study. Half were treated with the antibiotic for 10 days, while the other half were given a placebo. The group that had received the drug showed a 50 per cent improvement in symptoms within five days, while similar recovery in the placebo group took eight days.
The researchers haven’t yet ascertained why the antibiotic had such an effect, but they note that the drug’s anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to fight off two common bacteria – Chlamydophilia pneumoniae and Mycoplasma pneumoniae – may play a role.
There is some concern over the serious side-effects of telithromycin, which can include liver damage. Health Canada is reviewing the drug’s safety in light of these concerns.

Posted: March 27/07

Read Allergy News posts from 2006