Peanuts are originally from Peru and other places in South America. Portuguese colonizers carried peanut seedlings to Africa and China from Brazil. Peanuts made their way back across the ocean to America from European traders, where it is now a cash crop in Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas for oils, peanut butter and other products. But peanuts are not alone in the food allergy rise. Milk based products are under pressure to look at labeling, especially for milk from cloned cows which the US FDA currently says is not necessary. Genetically modified (GM) seeds are not allowed in Europe, but they are prevalent in the US.
More states are moving toward standardized policies for dealing with anaphylaxis in schools, said Anne Munoz-Furlong, who runs the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.
Monica Hollenberg of Kennewick knows how dangerous that allergy can be.
Her son, Benjamin, 7, recently touched the crust of a peanut butter sandwich at school. He then touched his eye.
His eye turned red and became severely swollen, Hollenberg said.
Benjamin has a life-threatening peanut allergy and school officials didn't immediately recognize he was having a reaction, she said.
One issue is parents inserting their judgment for what constitutes an allergy versus a medical diagnosis. Australian dietitians note with some alarm the effects of not eating enough foods with the correct amount of minerals and vitamins due to self-serve diagnostics. Food Allergy Activists may rely too much on data that is compiled over a decade ago and needs scientific peer review to augment some popular beliefs because the data should also incorporate internationally known issues rather than an American bias as allergies are noted globally. Scientists note, no increase in the number of allergy sufferers, but a dramatic increase in the number of parents ascribing rashes, itching and behavioral issues to certain foods like milk, eggs or others. Researchers are actively seeking cures for those with milk allergies. One doctor sums it up best with:
A recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics summed up the whole food allergy mess this way: "It is evident that inadequate study design and/or a paucity of data currently limit the ability to draw firm conclusions about certain aspects of [allergy] prevention through dietary interventions." Included in that report were questions about mothers avoiding allergic foods during pregnancy and breastfeeding, having kids avoid allergic foods until 2 to 3 years of age and - to my international parents' delight - when to let children start solid foods.
So what do I tell parents now? While I wait for better information, I'm hedging my bets and not saying anything new: Breastfeed exclusively for 6 months; moms, eat what you want; start solids with cereals between 4 to 6 months, and other solids at 6 months; it's best to avoid commonly allergic foods until age 1, and maybe a little longer if there's a strong family history of food allergies. But, if you have cultural traditions that favor introducing foods differently than that, go right ahead.
Nobody has any definitive answers, but there are a number of increasing dangerous issues around our food supply. Doctors plus scientists must take anxious parents complaints more seriously. Parents need to be patient in the quest for proven causes. Looking for a root cause of food allergies will take dedicated scientists looking at the effects of fish farms and the water supply, cloning on corporate farms and laboratory genetically modified food served over a period of time. Economics play a large part in which things get studied first or rise to the top of a national or global political agenda.
The title belies the seriousness of the subject, but many have added the Food Allergies for Dummies to their library of must reads on the topic. This book by Robert A. Wood, MD and contributor Joe Kraynak, is one of the most recently published works on the subjects of diagnosis and remedies in the past few months. For you, Temika - Luv Ya!