Federal pledge to address food allergies

23rd June 2020 | Eativity editors

One in five Australians suffer from allergies, and these rates are on the rise. Australia has even been called the “world’s allergy capital” because of its high national prevalence rates.

But there is hope that this could soon change. A federal committee has released a report into allergies and anaphylaxis in Australia – the result of an inquiry that launched last year which reviewed potential and known causes of allergy and anaphylaxis, food allergy management, access and cost of services, as well as treatment and support services.

The world’s allergy capital is not a title any nation would aspire to earn for itself. While food allergies can certainly be mild for some people, for many others they can be extremely debilitating and even life-threatening.

The cause of our increasing prevalence of allergies is not entirely clear, but appears to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including our diet and also our reduced exposure to germs that strengthen our immune system at a young age.

“For many people who have severe food allergies, one error can result in serious illness or even death,” says the committee’s Chair, Trent Zimmerman MP. “Living with severe food allergies is like walking a tightrope every day.”

Eggs are one of the most common food allergy triggers, as are peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.

The committee’s inquiry has led to 24 recommendations, including the establishment of a National Centre for Allergies and Anaphylaxis in Australia, clinical research into food allergy treatments and establishing a national register of anaphylaxis episodes.

Associate Professor Kirsten Perrett of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, which put forward recommendations to the inquiry, has welcomed the announcement as a big step towards understanding why food allergies are on the rise in Australia, how to prevent future cases and how to find effective treatments. 

“Australia has the highest reported rates of food allergy in the world, which was a virtually non-existent problem 30 years ago,” she says. “Food allergy now affects one in 10 infants and one child in every classroom.

“Despite this growing health and economic burden, there are no treatment options approved for routine care. Avoidance of allergen remains the only management strategy.”

To find out more about the diagnosis, management and prevention of allergies, listen to the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute Allergies Podcast.