The results of this study were distributed to all those who were interviewed, to all Food and Nutrition Cooperative Extension educators in New York, to physicians through several collaborating allergists and to members of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) who also collaborated on this project.
Only about half (51%) of those surveyed who were prescribed an epineprine auto injector, carry them with them at all times. Information concerning the proper storage, use and replacement of expired autoinjectors can be life saving to a food allergic consumer who has an unexpected reaction. Some best practices for the management of allergies in adults with life threatening food allergies were identified.
impact statement issue
Food allergy is an increasing food safety and public health issue that affects about 4% of the U.S. population or about 12 million Americans. According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), severe allergic reactions caused by foods account for 30,000 emergency room visits and 150-200 deaths each year in the U.S. There are 6.9 million Americans allergic to seafood and 3.3 million Americans allergic to peanuts and/or tree nuts. Eight foods are responsible for 90% of food allergic reactions and include: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, etc.), fish (halibut, salmon, and cod), shellfish (shrimp, crab and lobster) wheat and soy. While most reactions are triggered by ingestion of the food allergen, reactions can also occur from inhalation of cooking fumes/vapors.
There is currently no cure for food allergy, so strict avoidance of the the offending allergen is the only way to prevent a reaction.
This project is needed to better understand how adults with life threatening food allergies manage their condition.
impact statement response
Eighty adult volunteers from New York and New Jersey were interviewed for 60-90 minutes using a comprehensive questionnaire on attitudes and behaviors concerning their food allergies. They were asked about the practices they used to select foods for home preparation and food consumed in other venues, as well as food practices in restaurants, and preparedness for accidental exposure to food allergens. Results indicate that although respondents with severe food allergy are relatively confident about the information they have been given by medical personnel, 64% mentioned that they have not been adequately informed about how to avoid food to which they are allergic, or how to handle a reaction.
The conclusions from this study indicate that there is a deficit of knowledge in people suffering from severe food allergy concerning diagnosis, treatment and management, especially concerning epinephrine auto injectors. There is a also a need for greater physician involvement in the food allergic patients' allergy management.
impact statement summary
The purpose of this study was to interview adults, 18 years or older, who have life threatening food allergies and to identify motivators and barriers to safe food selection, as well as barriers to implementation of emergency action plans in case of an accidental ingestion of allergenic foods. Information gathered from this project is being used to design education and training materials for adults with severe food allergies, physicians and food service operators.