Entries in Food Allergies (20)


Three-Year-Old Boy Who Can’t Eat Anything Is Running Out of Time, Parents Say

ABC News(ROCHESTER, Minn.) -- Michael Gonzalez is a 3-year-old Florida boy who apparently can’t eat any normal foods, and his parents say they are in a panic.

Michael drinks 20 to 30 bottles of prescription-only formula daily called Neocate Junior. He can’t eat apples or carrots or anything else that other kids his age eat, his mother, Jennifer Gonzalez, told ABC News affiliate KSTP.

But his predicament has gone from worrisome to alarming. Shortly after the formula maker, Nutricia, made changes to its packaging in August 2012, Michael suffered from severe vomiting and diarrhea, his parents say. Convinced that the company also changed the formula, his parents have hoarded containers full of older stock, but it’s only safe to drink through October.

“That’s not OK, to tell me that my son has an expiration date,” Jennifer Gonzalez said.

Specialists have been examining Michael at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where the boy’s parents took him two weeks ago to get help.

Michael has been diagnosed with Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome, his parents said. The syndrome is not uncommon and is usually associated with an intolerance for milk or soy in babies six months to a year old, said Dr. Wesley Burks, chair of the pediatrics department at the University of North Carolina. Parents realize there’s a problem when their child gets diarrhea or vomits after feeding, he told ABC News.

It’s very rare for a child with the syndrome to be unable to eat many other foods aside from milk or soy, he said.

“Usually if you can’t tolerate many foods, it’s related to your bowel itself,” said Burks, who has not treated Michael and did not comment on his case specifically. Most children grow out of the syndrome by age three to five, he added.


A child’s food allergies cost her parents on average $4,000, mainly due to lost income as parents switch jobs or work less, ABC News reported in December.

From birth, Michael wasn’t like other babies, his parents said. He threw up after every feeding and his parents worried he’d starve.

“Babies are supposed to be happy. He wasn’t. Every time you fed him, he got worse. He was mad,” the boy’s mother told KSTP.

Michael’s parents discovered Neocate Junior when he was 11 months old, and it helped, they said — until the company changed the packaging.

A spokeswoman for Nutricia cited a statement posted to the company’s website saying that the product formulation and ingredients for Neocate Junior Unflavored remained the same, though packaging graphics were redone in August. However, the company said it has received 14 similar complaints. Nutricia says it worked with the FDA to investigate the problem, and found that the formula recipe remained unchanged, said the spokeswoman, who asked not to be quoted by name.

The company released this statement about the case to ABC News:

“We understand this is a challenging time for the Gonzalez family. We are connecting the family and their physician with the right clinical experts so they can partner on finding alternative nutritional solutions. This is in keeping with our mission to help provide nutritional solutions to children with very sensitive and specialized conditions.”

While his parents wait for medical help, meanwhile, Michael continues to live in a world without regular food.

“He doesn’t know what real juice tastes like, or real milk,” said Jennifer Gonzalez.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Massachusetts Case May Spur Food Allergy Lawsuits

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In the wake of a landmark settlement, restaurants and other food service outlets may now have to go the extra mile to serve sensitive customers in order to avoid a lawsuit.

Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., is under orders to offer safer options after a student with Celiac disease complained that the school refused to exempt her from its meal plan but wouldn't serve gluten-free food.

The settlement could pave the way for people with allergies -- and other health conditions -- to sue businesses that are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Celebrities Suffer from Food Allergies

Kevin Winter/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Many across the nation suffer from food allergies, which includes celebrities.

New Girl star Zooey Deschanel reportedly has sensitivities to eggs, dairy and wheat, which contains the protein “glue,” gluten.

The View co-host Elizabeth Hasselbeck and political commentator Keith Olbermann both have celiac disease, a digestive condition caused by an immune reaction to gluten. This disease affects roughly one in 133 Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Actress Jennifer Esposito also suffers from celiac disease and founded the Jennifer’s Way Foundation for Celiac Education, according to her website.

Tennis star Serena Williams and actor Ray Romano reportedly suffer from peanut allergies, the most common food allergen among children, according to the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Parents Deal with the High Cost of Food Allergies

Tooga/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Having a child with a food allergy can not only be tough on the child, it can be expensive for the parents.
The cost of a food allergy in an average American child is more than $4,000 a year, according to a new survey from Northwestern University in Chicago.
What's surprising is that most of that cost is not from direct medical care, but in money lost by parents taking care of their allergic child.
Researchers say that having to change jobs, or take part-time work in order to provide proper care, cost parents an average of $2,400 a year.  Many parents in the survey said they had to quit jobs or had been fired in connection with their child's allergy.
All told, the survey estimated that the total annual economic cost to the United States due to food allergies in children was $25 billion.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mislabeled Fish Raise Food Allergy Risk

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Nearly 40 percent of seafood sold in New York City is mislabeled, according to a conservation group’s new report on a fishy practice that spells trouble for people with food allergies.

“Recent testing has revealed that dishonest labeling and fraudulent seafood substitution for certain species is rampant and widespread,” researchers from the ocean conservation group Oceana wrote in their report, which they said was based on DNA testing of 142 seafood samples collected from unidentified New York City grocery stores, restaurants and sushi bars.

Oceana previously reported fish mislabeling rates as high as 48 percent in Boston and 55 percent in Los Angeles.

Oceana said the findings are particularly troubling given that seafood ranks among the top eight food allergens. And since fish allergies are often species-specific, experts say the bait-and-switch opens the door to dangerous exposures.

“If [a person] is not allergic to the fish they think they are getting, and that fish is substituted with one to which they are allergic, they obviously could have a serious allergic reaction,” said Dr. David Fleischer, an associate professor of pediatric allergy and immunology at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colo. “Patients need to be able to trust the people they purchase fish from.”

Among the “most troubling substitutions,” according to the report, was fish labeled as white tuna that turned out to be escolar, a type of snake mackerel linked to gastrointestinal problems. Also, fish sold as red snapper and halibut turned out to be tilefish, which has mercury levels that land it on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “do-not-eat” list for pregnant or nursing women and young children.

“Without accurate, honest labels that show exactly what fish you are eating and where it was harvested, those who need this critical advice about specific fish will be left unprotected,” the report authors wrote.

Previous reports on fish fraud have sparked outrage from politicians, who argue the FDA should do more to curb seafood mislabeling.

“Seafood fraud is not only deceptive marketing, but it can also pose serious health concerns, particularly for pregnant women seeking to limit exposure to heavy metals or individuals with serious allergies to certain types of fish,” Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. wrote in an October 2012 letter to the FDA. “Consumers should not have to question the safety of their seafood.”

But it’s unclear where along the chain “from bait to plate” the mislabeling is taking place. Citing a 2009 Government Accountability Office report, Boxer said 86 percent of seafood consumed in the U.S. originates overseas but only 2 percent of it is inspected by the FDA and only 0.01 percent is “explicitly inspected for fraud or mislabeling.”

“Seafood can follow a complex path from the point when it is caught to the point when it is sold to a consumer, making it difficult to isolate the point where fraud occurs,” she wrote. “To effectively address this problem, we need better traceability and enforcement throughout the entire chain of sale, from bait to plate.”

A spokeswoman for the FDA said the agency had not yet reviewed the Oceana report and “therefore cannot comment on the report at this time.” But, she added, “All seafood is required to be labeled in a manner that is truthful and not misleading and in accordance with federal regulations. It is not acceptable to misrepresent the identity of a product, including at the final point of sale to a consumer.”

Buying fish from reputable dealers and being wary about unusually low prices can help protect consumers from fish fraud, according to the FDA. The agency also has a list of commonly substituted seafood products and photos of whole fish and fillets.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Food Label Omissions Can Cause Allergic Reactions

Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Food labeling in the United States has undergone significant changes over the past decade to prevent customers from experiencing allergic reactions, but there's still a long way to go, experts say.

"It's a very difficult topic to find a perfect solution for," said Dr. Scott Sicherer, a professor and researcher at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.  "Companies can always make a mistake and have recalls if a product is found to have a mislabeled an ingredient in it.  Unless someone gets sick from it, they wouldn't know it was there."

The Food and Drug Administration and manufacturers have issued 20 recalls in the last 60 days for undeclared allergens in food products, including Chicken of the Sea tuna, which had undeclared soy; two kinds of Wegmans brownie mix with undeclared milk; and two kinds of ice cream with undeclared pecans, according to FDA records.

An ABC News analysis found more than 400 recalls for undeclared allergens in food reported to the FDA since March 2009.  More than 140 of them were for desserts and snack foods, like cookies, candy and ice cream.  Repeat brand recalls were often from grocery stores, such as Kroger, Publix, Whole Foods Market and Wegmans.

Eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat make up 90 percent of food allergies, according to a 2008 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that found an 18 percent rise in children diagnosed with food allergies between 1997 and 2007.

Federal law requires manufacturers to list the top eight allergens on food labels in plain English -- "milk" instead of "casein," for example.  The law, called the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, went into effect in 2006.

But other allergens, like sesame, don't have to be called out on food labels.  It's also possible that products that don't contain an allergen can become contaminated with it if the allergen-free product is made or packaged in the same factory as a product containing that allergen.

"Advisory labeling, some people call this precautionary labeling," Sicherer said, "those types of comments are totally voluntary.  They're not part of the law."

As such, the labels aren't consistent with one another.  Labels can say "may contain peanuts," or "made in a facility that also processes nuts," which many allergic people find confusing.  It's possible a manufacturer failed to write an advisory or that the manufacturer over-labeled on items that were at low risk for contamination.

Food safety lawyer Bill Marler said he's never had a case in which someone had an allergic reaction because a manufacturer failed to say it intentionally put nuts or milk in its product, but he's had cross-contamination cases.

"I think there's probably a lot more of these not-straight-up labeling issues," he said.  "I do think the manufacturing process is open to mistakes being made, especially when they're making multiple types of food in the same facility."

Dr. Donna Hummell, an allergist at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University said chocolate and candy are often especially risky foods for people with nut allergies to eat.

"If you can buy it with almonds in it or buy it plain or buy it with peanuts in it, it's better to watch out," Hummell said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Chef Ming Tsai Honored for Food Allergy Awareness, Inspired by Son

Steve Exum/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Chef Ming Tsai remembers ordering a sandwich without bread for his then 3-year-old son David because the toddler was allergic to seven of the eight most common food allergens.  Tsai approached the restaurant manager, a man in a suit and tie standing off to the side.

"He just looked at me and said, 'We'd rather not serve him,'" Tsai said, adding that waiters and restaurant managers used to roll their eyes when he mentioned David's food allergies.  "Don't open a restaurant if you don't know what's in your food.  This is absurd."

From that day on, Tsai made it his mission to promote allergy awareness.  He developed an allergy safety system in his restaurant, Blue Ginger in Wellesley, Mass.  He became the spokesman for the nonprofit Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, which recently merged with the Food Allergy Initiative to become FARE.  And he worked with the Massachusetts state legislature for five years on an allergy safety bill.

FARE honored Tsai with its lifetime achievement award at the Food Allergy Ball Monday night at New York's Waldorf Astoria.

Tsai cooked some of his signature dishes for the guests, including sake-miso marinated Alaskan butterfish and shitake and goat cheese crostini, but he didn't use peanuts, tree nuts or shellfish -- the most common allergens.

"Ming is an ideal honoree," FARE chairman Todd Slotkin said, noting Tsai's awards and presence on the Food Network.  "He understands the challenges that food-allergic families face and has been greatly advancing the cause for over 10 years."

Tsai stepped out from the kitchen in his apron to accept the award, smiling alongside chefs who have received the award in the past, including restaurateur Drew Nieporent, who ribbed him for being a Red Sox fan.  After thanking the organization, Tsai thanked a woman in the audience who was honored for her work on EpiPens, or Epinephrine Auto-Injectors, which are used to save someone undergoing a severe allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock.

"An EpiPen saved my son's life, so thank you from the bottom of my heart," he told her from the stage.  "There is nothing, nothing worse than your child going through anaphylaxis and thinking, 'Is my son going to die?'"

David went into anaphylactic shock during Tsai's father-in-law's 70th birthday, Tsai said.  He was in the kitchen preparing roast tenderloin for 80 guests when the babysitter accidentally gave 5-year-old David whole milk instead of rice milk.

David's breathing became labored, and Tsai's wife, a nurse, sprang to action and jammed an EpiPen in David's leg.  He was then taken to the emergency room, but he turned out fine.  

David is now 13, and Tsai considers him cured of many of his allergies thanks to new techniques to desensitize him, including non-Western medicine.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pesticides in Tap Water Linked to Food Allergies

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As food allergies become increasingly common, a new study offers the first proof that they may be linked to pesticides found in tap water.

Researchers at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology used existing government data to see whether people with more dichlorophenols in their urine were more likely to have food allergies.  Dichlorophenols are a kind of chlorine in certain pesticides that are known to kill bacteria -- and in theory, they could be killing the naturally occurring bacteria in humans’ digestive systems, causing food allergies.

“We wanted to see if there was an association between certain pesticides and food allergies, and we were specifically interested in dichlorophenols because those were the ones that had this antibacterial effect,” said lead researcher Dr. Elina Jerschow.  “When researchers have compared bacteria from the bowel in healthy kids versus bacteria in the bowel for kids that have lot of allergies, they’ve noticed a big difference.”

The number of children and teens with food or digestive allergies in the United States has increased 18 percent between 1997 and 2007, according to a 2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  That’s about three million people under age 18.

Eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat make up 90 percent of food allergies, according to the CDC report.  Symptoms can range from mouth tingling to anaphylaxis, which is the swelling of the throat and tongue and can lead to death.

Jerschow clarified that the researchers were only looking for a statistical association, meaning they were not able to examine patients to see how these chemicals physically caused their allergies.  Because it’s only an association, these findings could mean that the chemicals caused the food allergies, or it could mean the food allergies caused the chemicals in the urine.  That part is not yet clear.

“While the study does not allow concluding that pesticides are responsible for the allergies, it certainly raises the possibility and justifies pursuing the kinds of studies that can help sort of if these pesticides are, indeed, the cause,” said Dr. Kenneth Spaeth, who directs the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Center at North Shore University Hospital.  He was not a researcher involved in the study.

Spaeth said the study's findings fit in with growing evidence that pesticide exposure can damage the immune system, which could increase allergies as well.

Researchers were surprised to find that dichlorophenol levels in urine didn’t vary between urban and rural areas, Jerschow said.  They concluded that even those who opted for bottled water instead of tap water could ingest the pesticide chemical from eating fruit, fruit juices and foods with cocoa powder, like chocolate.

As such, Jerschow said the research is still too preliminary to suggest that Americans should change their eating or drinking habits.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Allergic to Meat: Tiny Tick May Be Spreading Vegetarianism

iStockphoto/Thinkstock (file photo)(NEW YORK) -- A tiny tick might be to blame for a rash of meat allergies in central and southern regions of the U.S.

A bite from the lone star tick, so-called for the white spot on its back, looks innocent enough.  But researchers say saliva that sneaks into the wound might trigger a reaction to meat agonizing enough to convert lifelong carnivores into vegetarians.

"People will eat beef and then anywhere from three to six hours later start having a reaction; anything from hives to full-blown anaphylactic shock," said Dr. Scott Commins, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  "Most people want to avoid having the reaction, so they try to stay away from the food that triggers it."

Cases of the bizarre allergy are cropping up in areas ripe with lone star ticks, according to research presented Friday at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif.  But whether the bugs cause meat allergies remains unclear.

"It's hard to prove," said Commins.  "We're still searching for the mechanism."

Allergies are immune reactions to foreign substances, from pet hair to peanuts.  As antibodies attack the substance that caused the reaction, they trigger the release of histamine, a chemical that causes hives and, in severe cases, life-threatening anaphylaxis.

Commins said blood levels of antibodies for alpha-gal, a sugar found in beef, lamb and pork, rise after a single bite from the lone star tick.  He said he hopes experiments that combine tiny samples of tick saliva with the invisible antibodies will prove the two are directly connected.

"It's complicated, no doubt," said Commins.  "But we think it's something in the saliva."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Spices Hard to Avoid for Those with Allergies

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ANAHEIM, Calif.) -- You may only think of spices as being ingredients in foods.  But they are commonly found in other products -- such as cosmetics, fragrances and toothpastes -- according to allergists at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).  

And for the 2 to 3 percent of people worldwide who are allergic to spices, that could make them almost impossible to avoid.

Spice allergy is responsible for about 2 percent of food allergies and is often under-diagnosed due to a lack of reliable allergy testing for particular spices or unawareness of exposure.

“While spice allergy seems to be rare, with the constantly increasing use of spices in the American diet and a variety of cosmetics, we anticipate more and more Americans will develop this allergy,” allergist Sami Bahna, M.D., the former president of the ACAAI, said Thursday at the college's Annual Scientific Meeting.  “Patients with spice allergy often have to go through extreme measures to avoid the allergen.  This can lead to strict dietary avoidance, low quality of life and sometimes malnutrition.”

The most common spice allergy triggers include cinnamon and garlic, according to the ACAAI, but can range from black pepper to vanilla.

“Because of this allergy’s complexity, allergists often recommend a treatment plan that includes strict avoidance which can be a major task,” Dr. Bahna said.

Allergic reactions can range from sneezing to a rash, upset stomach, and sometimes even a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis, where the throat closes, making it difficult to breathe.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate spices, meaning that they are often not on labels -- making them impossible to detect and avoid.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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