Did you know? It is estimated that up to 20% of adults and children in the UK have a food hypersensitivity*. Food Allergy Awareness Week is an initiative created by FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) to raise awareness of different food allergies and improve public understanding of what can be a life-threatening condition. Founded in 1991 by a mother whose daughter had recently been diagnosed with a milk and egg allergy, FARE began its Food Allergy Awareness Week in 1998.
Every 3 Minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone in the world to the hospital**. Food Allergy Awareness Week calls on people to take action, and make an impact, on behalf of the millions of people around the world that suffer with food allergies. Most food allergies affect younger children under the age of 3. Those children who have food allergies to milk, eggs, soya,
and wheat in early life will often grow out of it by the time they start school. However, food allergies that develop during adulthood, or persist into adulthood, are likely to be lifelong allergies^.
The number of people living with allergies in the UK is rising by 5% every year*. The ‘first wave’ of allergic disease occurred some 50 years ago with a huge surge in asthma and hay fever. We are now experiencing a ‘second wave’ of allergic disease, which has presented itself with a sharp increase in people suffering from life threatening food allergies. Just under half (48%) of consumers say that they, or someone in their household, avoid at least one food/ingredient. With 16-24-year-olds (61%) the most likely age group to report household avoidance of foods/ingredients*.
For reasons that are unclear, rates of food allergies have risen sharply in the last 20 years. You can develop a food allergy at any age, even to a food that you’ve safely eaten before. There are ever-increasing numbers of adults with no allergic history who are suddenly becoming anaphylactic to what they always had considered to be ‘safe foods’. This rise in food allergies is on an unprecedented scale and science has no idea why – making it more important for people to be aware of the impacts.
The 14 Foods that most commonly cause an allergic reaction are:
Celery, cereals containing gluten, crustaceans, eggs, fish, lupin, milk, molluscs, mustard, peanuts, sesame, soybeans, sulphur dioxide and sulphites and tree nuts.
In the most serious cases, a person can experience a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), which can be life threatening. The symptoms of anaphylaxis are: breathing difficulties, trouble swallowing or speaking, and feeling dizzy or faint.
Food allergies happen when the immune system – the body’s defence against infection – mistakenly treats proteins found in food as a threat. As a result, a number of chemicals are released. It’s these chemicals that cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Natasha’s Law came into effect on 1st October 2021*. It requires all food outlets to provide full ingredient lists with clear allergen labelling on Pre-Packed for Direct Sale foods (PPDS). PPDS is food that is prepared, prepacked, and offered or sold to consumers on the same premises. These laws apply to businesses in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The change came after teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died from an allergic reaction after eating sesame seeds that were baked into the dough of a baguette. According to the rules, PPDS (Prepacked for Direct Sale) food will have to clearly display the following information on the packaging:
Name of the food, full ingredients list, with allergenic ingredients emphasised (for example in bold, italics or a different colour).
What can we do?
Between 1992 and 2012, there was a 615% increase in hospital admissions for anaphylaxis in England and Wales, mainly caused by food allergies*. This number is only growing each year and it is important to shed light on the subject of allergies. You can do this in a number of ways:
- Ask officials to officially recognise Food Allergy Awareness Week
- Donate/Fundraise to fund allergy research
- Register your school – educate children from a younger age to ensure they are fully educated in what to do in the case of an allergy
- Public Campaigning
- Raising awareness to the importance of allergy education
- Share experiences and stories
The more we talk about a topic, the more is known. Indeed, in the recent film Boiling Point staring Steven Graham a customer in the fictional restaurant suffers anaphylaxis due to an oversight in the kitchen despite the allergy being declared to staff – a chef’s worst nightmare – and something all kitchens work hard to avoid.
* Natasha Allergy Research Foundation