Food allergy sufferers double in last decade in Europe

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 20th June 2012

Earlier this week, the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) launched its Food Allergy Campaign to raise awareness of the increase of anaphylaxis in children, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.

Figures from the EAACI show that more than 17 million people in Europe suffer from food allergies. The sharpest increase is in children and young people. The number of hospital admission for severe allergic reactions in children is seven times higher than it was in 2002. Food allergy is the leading cause of anaphylaxis in children aged 0 to 14 across Europe.

In continental Europe, the most common food allergies in children are to egg, cow’s milk and tree-nuts but the campaign also addresses peanut allergies (which are grown in the ground and are not tree nuts). Adults in Europe are more likely to be allergic to fresh fruit, nuts and vegetables.

Walnuts, hazelnuts and peanuts cause 50% of life-threatening allergic reactions in the UK, while in Scandinavia, allergies to shellfish and cod prevail.

The EAACI’s campaign aims to improve food labelling and access to anaphylaxis treatment. Some foods currently have the label “may contain peanuts” or “may contain milk”. The EAACI would like the criteria for “may contain” labels to be more rigorously standardised to represent different levels of contamination and risk.

In Australia, a Food Industry Guide to Allergen Management and Labelling released by the Australian Food and Grocery Council provides recommendations on the production and labelling of foods containing allergenic substances.