Controlling food allergies - Our Daily Green

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Controlling food allergies

Could the recent increase in food allergies be related to genetically modified foods? Read more...

Food allergy awareness in schools
(originally published on

Cleveland Green Parenting Examiner

In any given classroom of 25 students, one of them is likely to have a food allergy. Food allergies are on the rise. With school beginning, parents often receive lists of approved snacks to send into the classroom so a life threatening allergy is not triggered. Lunchrooms have peanut butter free tables and students carry Epi-pens. Clearly food allergies can be quite serious.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 3 million children now have food allergies. Peanut allergies have doubled and kids seem to be taking longer to outgrow milk and egg allergies.
The most commonly listed foods that trigger allergic reactions are milk, eggs, peanuts/nuts, fish/shellfish, and wheat, as well as assorted additives, dyes and sulphites.  
The cause of food allergies is not completely known, but there is quite a bit of research being conducted in this area. Part of the problem is that food supplies are modified everywhere along the chain.
As renowned nutrition writer Michael Pollan explains in a 2007 NY Times article,  Unhappy Meals, 
 "... cow’s milk did not start out as a nutritious food for humans; in fact, it made them sick until humans who lived around cows evolved the ability to digest lactose as adults. ...“Health” is, among other things, the byproduct of being involved in these sorts of relationships in a food chain — when the health of one link of the food chain is disturbed, it can affect all the creatures in it. When the soil is sick or in some way deficient, so will be the grasses that grow in that soil and the cattle that eat the grasses and the people who drink the milk."
In other words, the adaptations (both natural and man made) that occur along the food chain could be the very reason allergies develop. Genetically modified crops are both directly and indirectly in the food supply, either through the plant supply or the animals that eat such plants. Genetic engineering may one day make food more nutritious and abundant, but it also could introduce allergens into foods where none existed before. Companies are supposed to test whether their genetically engineered foods contain any new proteins that behave like allergens.
There are certain criteria that we look at—such as heat stability, enzyme stability, and whether it’s related to a known allergen—that tell us if a protein is likely to provoke an allergic reaction,” says Mount Sinai’s Hugh Sampson.  "That process, if carried out carefully, should exclude almost all allergens, though nobody can say for sure that a new protein won’t be a problem.” 
Ohio has now joined a growing list of states to enact legislation calling for the creation of food allergy management guidelines for schools. A provision of the state budget bill calls on the board of education of each city, local and vocational school district, along with the governing authority of each charter school, to establish a written food allergy management policy. The provision states that the policy is to be developed in consultation with parents, school nurses, other school employees, school volunteers, students, and community members.


John Ettorre said...

Great stuff, Kim! I'm so excited for you and your new column. It will open a whole new world for you, as well as for your readers. Keep up the great work.

Kim said...

Thank you so much, John! It's off to a great start and a fabulous opportunity for me to combine so many of my loves: writing, healthy living, parenting, and of course, my hometown!