Peanut allergy fears gone nuts
Nut allergies are the new asthma, with peanutphobes increasing year on year in the US and in Europe
9 January 2009
Datamonitor’s Product Launch Analytics lists nuts as one of the top 10 consumer trends for 2009. However, a Havard Medical School professor says fears over peanut allergy are spiralling out of control.
Studies have shown that the number of people affected by peanut allergies is rising, with an estimated 2.5 million people in Europe and the US now vulnerable, reports Foodnavigator.com
Despite this, Professor Nicolas Christakis writes in the British Medical Journal that a level-headed approach is essential. He believes that directives which highlight possible allergens in a food, such as the EU’s Labelling Directive 2000/13/EC, are well-intentioned, but ultimately unhelpful. They actually “fan the flames, since they signal to parents that nuts are a clear and present danger.”
“This encourages more parents to worry, which fuels the epidemic. It also encourages more parents to have their children tested, thus detecting mild and meaningless ‘allergies’ to nuts. And this encourages still more avoidance of nuts, leading to still more sensitisation.”
Professor Christakis believes this negative cycle of anxiety must be broken. However, as there is currently no cure for nut allergies, the only way to avoid an allergic reaction is for sufferers to take due care over what they eat. Current recommendations in many countries such as the UK and the US, also advise would-be mothers to avoid peanuts during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and infancy.
Another study by researchers at John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore suggests 10% of children with nut allergies will outgrow their condition. Previously, it was believed that allergies to tree nuts, such as cashews, almonds and hazelnuts – lasted a lifetime. However children with multiple allergies to different tree nuts are unlikely to outgrow their allergy, while children with a peanut allergy (a ground nut) have a 20% chance of outgrowing it.