One in 10 Australian babies will develop a food allergy by their first birthday, medical experts and health groups said while calling on the Australian government to recognise food allergy as a national health priority.
Stating that Australia has one of the highest incidences of food allergies in the world, Maria Said, president of support group Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA) said that food allergy is a growing public health issue in the country.
Said stressed that in the absence of mandatory reporting of food allergy cases, the country’s healthcare ecosystem is underestimating the number of food allergy-related fatalities and near misses. “It also means we are failing to identify the gaps in knowledge that puts people at risk.”
“Six coronial inquiries since 2005 have investigated deaths from food allergy. The limited information we have is that none of these individuals were under the ongoing care of an allergy specialist with most never having sought any allergy specialist advice at all,” she said.
Said called on the government to support the setting up of an Australia-wide allergy register to capture the true number of food allergy fatalities and severe life-threatening reactions.
According to the A&AA, the aim of the proposed register would be to build a better picture of the severity of food allergy in Australia, the frequency of severe anaphylaxis, tracking new triggers, and to capture important information to guide future policy, healthcare needs and education.
The most accurate estimate of food allergy in Australia identified the incidence of food allergy at age 12 months to be 10%—specifically peanut allergy (3%), raw egg (8.8%) and sesame seed (0.8%).
According to Dr Raymond Mullins, chair of the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, if food allergy rates remain uniform across Australia, there will be 30,000 new cases of food allergy in a single year and 9,000 of these will develop a peanut allergy, which usually remains for life.
“We know from previous studies that food allergy has spiked dramatically in the past 10-15 years. These children are now entering their teens and early adult years where the risk of fatal reactions becomes much greater,” said Mullins.
“Anyone with a food allergy, even those currently diagnosed with mild or moderate symptoms, is at risk of anaphylaxis.”