Food fads blamed for rise in food allergy deaths
EXCLUSIVE: Deaths from food allergies are rising by 10 per cent a year and food fads are being blamed for restaurant and cafe owners not treating food allergies seriously enough.
Australia has the highest incidence of food allergy in the world but a new survey reveals a lack of understanding about its life-threatening nature.
And the growing adoption of food trends like veganism and gluten free diets are being blamed for the problem.
One in four people responding to a survey by Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia said they had experienced an allergic reaction because their condition was not taken seriously by a person preparing food
Four in ten children with an allergy reported suffering an adverse reaction at school, the survey of 290 people found
"Part of the problem is there are too many food fads and people don't think it is serious, they think people are being over the top or just trying to get attention," Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia CEO Maria Said said.
The community confuses the potentially life-threatening allergies with lifestyle choices, such as being vegan or disliking certain foods, she said.
Using a knife or a chopping board that has been in contact with an allergen when preparing food for an allergy sufferer can be all it takes to provoke an allergic reaction in some people.
Sadly many restaurant and cafe owners were unaware just how sensitive some people could be to food allergens, she said.
"We have a responsible Service of Alcohol certificate, it's time that anyone that serves food must do a free online course to give them the basics on managing food allergy in a food service environment," she said.
Between 1997 and 2013 deaths from anaphylaxis caused by food increased by 9.7 per cent a year a recent study by three Australian allergy experts found.
To combat the problem it was important people who suffered from a food allergy clearly communicated to restaurant and wait staff the life threatening nature of their allergy, Ms Said explained.
Even when chefs go to extraordinary lengths to prepare an allergy free meal mistakes can happen.
In 2016 a 64 year old Victorian woman died from anaphylaxis when miscommunication between the chef and the waitress led to the wrong plate being placed in front of her.
Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia has a free chef card that can be downloaded from its website that sufferers can give to the chef so it can be placed on the allergy free meal to reduce confusion.
Sydney mum Clare Elsworth said her nine year old son Isaac, who suffers allergies to dairy, nuts and sesame seeds, had accidentally been given a dairy-containing chocolate Santa at preschool.
At primary school he had been taunted by a child threatening him with a cheese stick.
"The kid at school chased him with a cheese stick and a yoghurt and he was running away saying "I could die'," she said.
"That is what you live with, a permanent knot in your belly wondering if today is going to be okay," she said.
"You've got to be constantly vigilant," she said.
Isaac rarely gets to eat out because of the risks his allergy poses and the family goes to the same few cafes they have learned to trust.
Isaac's 's allergies became apparent at six months of age when he suffered an anaphylactic reaction to being fed baby rice cereal mixed with baby formula.
Ms Elsworth wants people to understand that food allergies are in a different class to food fads and have to be taken seriously.
"I'm not trying to be difficult, I'm just looking out for my kid and want him to have a good hot go at life," she said.