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 on allergies and anaphylaxis in Australia. It’s the result of an inquiry 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. Sometimes even life-threatening.

The cause of our increasing prevalence of allergies is not entirely clear. However, it appears to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. These include our diet and 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.”

Federal pledge to address food allergies
Eggs are one of the most common food allergy triggers, as are peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.

A step in the right direction

The committee’s inquiry has led to 24 recommendations. This includes the establishment of a National Centre for Allergies and Anaphylaxis in Australia. Other recommendations include clinical research into food allergy treatments as well as the establishment of a national register of anaphylaxis episodes.

Associate Professor Kirsten Perrett of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has welcomed the announcement as a big step towards understanding why food allergies are on the rise in Australia. It can also help to prevent future cases and find effective treatments. 

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

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

Want to know more about the diagnosis, management and prevention of allergies? Listen to the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute Allergies podcast.