Published on March 11, 2014
Looking back over two decades The evolving story of the Anaphylaxis Campaign David Reading
1976: food ‘allergy’ in the public eye
“My skirt doesn’t fit. It must be an allergy.”
What exactly is food allergy? • Allergy occurs when the immune system reacts adversely to a food or substance that is harmless for most people • Food allergy affects 1-2% of adults and 5-8% of children • Anaphylaxis is at the extreme end – severe and rapidly-occurring
1993 landmark paper on anaphylaxis • Foods are a major cause of anaphylaxis • The number of annual deaths: unknown • Allergen avoidance is easier to advocate than undertake • The formation of a self-help group would put pressure on manufacturers Food induced anaphylaxis – death can and must be avoided. (BJCP, 1993). David Hide
Sarah’s story – why I got involved
Tragedy – a catalyst for change • Josephine Turner, aged 17, died 1992 after eating a pretzel containing peanut butter at her school • Michaela Mortimer, aged 16, died 1993 after eating a peanut wafer at her school • Rachel O’Neill, aged 26, died 1993 after eating peanuts in a Thai meal
The 1990s: a media scare story
A mother’s letter, 1994 • “My little boy suffered a very severe allergic reaction to a slice of cake in a restaurant while we were on holiday. The cake contained walnuts. I am terrified I will lose him. We are living with a ticking timebomb.” – from the Campaign files
The patient’s lifeline • EpiPen developed based on Combo-pen for chemical warfare antidote • 1980: EpiPen launched and registered in USA • Late 1980s: EpiPen available on ‘named patient basis’ in UK • 1996: EpiPen registered in UK • From 2001: Anapen, Jext and Emerade all registered in UK
The mid 1990s • Nicholas Soames launched an awareness campaign throughout industry • Retailers and manufacturers began to develop robust policies • Industry organisations (e.g. BRC, FDF) developed codes of practice • EC focused on allergen labelling
Early action by MAFF and the FSA • ‘Allergy aware’ pack developed for caterers • Web guidance introduced for industry and consumers • Surveys targeted at allergic consumers • ‘May contain’ guidance published • PLUS the launch of the FSA’s allergy research programme
Further UK deaths • 1995: Lucie Crawford died after eating a Chinese takeaway • 1995: Louise Westlake died during her company’s Christmas dinner • 1998: Laura Thrasher died on her first night at Cambridge University
Victim: Olympic athlete Ross Baillie 1999: Ross ate a coronation chicken sandwich – not knowing it contained nuts.
Commons statement, June 1999 • Edward Davey, MP: ‘When a fit, gifted young athlete dies because of a few bites of a chicken sandwich, it is surely our duty to ask whether his death and others like it could have been avoided.’
Growth of the Campaign • £59,000 donated by National Lottery fund • National office set up in Farnborough, Hants, with 9am-5pm helpline • Awareness programmes aimed at food industry, medical professionals, schools • Educational events set up for people with allergies – with special focus on teens
The Campaign: A lifeline for thousands over the years
2003: new legislation on allergens • European legislation required the mandatory labelling of 11 allergens (plus sulphites) in pre- packed food • This abolished ‘the 25 per cent rule’ • Molluscs and lupin added 2006 • Kiwi the next one on the list?
Living with the rise in ‘may contain’ • “I had always thought food labelling was there to help and protect the consumer. But now I wonder if it really exists to protect the food industry.” Mother of an allergic child
A teenager’s view • “Food companies put nut warnings on everything to cover themselves. I just can’t believe the risk is real. I’ll eat anything with a warning on it.” From the files of the Anaphylaxis Campaign
A shopper’s view • "We ignore all ‘may contain’ warnings since we found one on a cabbage.“ From the files of the Anaphylaxis Campaign
Is this a little extreme?
Can of milk with a nut statement
Food allergy alerts • The Anaphylaxis Campaign sends out allergy alerts to allergic members. • 36 alerts in 2006 • 58 in 2007 • 65 in 2008 • 46 in 2009 • 40 in 2010 • 62 in 2011 • 52 in 2012 • 36 in 2013
2009: a new CEO and a new beginning
Valuable support from the worlds of TV and sport Giorgio Locatelli Jo Frost Mark Foster
2010: a new-look awareness programme • Two conferences a year for corporate members • Each conference focusing on a specific theme • E-newsletters as part of new-look communication with corporate members • Consultancy offered on product launches or labelling questions • Annual conference for health professionals
2014: the year of the FIR • Catering and food sold loose: Systems must be in place enabling customers to obtain accurate information about 14 named allergens • Pre-packed food: The 14 allergens must be highlighted in the ingredients list (for example, in bold) • ‘Contains boxes’ not permitted • Minimum font size set for all mandatory information on labels.
Our ‘wish list’ for 2014 and beyond • Two adrenaline auto-injectors should be available to everyone with a severe allergy • All schools should hold their own auto- injectors • Everyone working in Primary Care – especially GPs – should be better informed
Finally…hope for the future • Researchers at Addenbrooke’s have achieved dramatic success in desensitising children to peanut • Oral immunotherapy (OIT) works by introducing small amounts of peanut into children’s diets and gradually building up to larger amounts • US researchers also having success
Thank you for listening
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