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Do food allergies affect certain age groups? By Jacqui McPeake and Julian Edwards, Allergen Accreditation

Allergens can affect people at any age, while some people believe that food allergies only affect the younger generation. Young children often suffer with food allergies and can grow out of them, which frequently happens with milk and eggs.

In many cases, childhood allergies can stay with the sufferer and cause lifelong issues. A severe milk allergy or severe egg allergy which continues into adulthood can be very difficult to manage. This is because eggs and milk can be found in so many products as a hidden ingredient.

Conversely, a person with a fish allergy has previously been associated with an older person. This opinion has changed recently as more children and young people are now suffering with fish allergies. As with egg and milk, if the sufferer has a severe fish allergy, then all products which contain fish as an ingredient pose a risk. This includes sauces with hidden ingredients such as Worcester Sauce which contains anchovies.

As a nation in the UK our eating habits and food trends change relatively quickly. Previous generations often ate a standard diet of homemade food with basic, fresh ingredients. With more families now travelling abroad and experimenting with new food such as Mexican and Middle Eastern, this expands diets and imposes a greater risk of discovering a food allergy.

As people lead busy lives, our intake of pre-prepared foods has also increased, utilising the range of products available such as dried food, frozen food, and ready meals. We don’t always know all the ingredients and there will often be preservatives and chemicals used to extend the shelf life which can include hidden allergens.

It is also apparent that many people don’t possess the skills to cook fresh homemade food as school curriculums have changed. Cookery classes are not part of the school classes anymore which has left a huge knowledge gap in basic cooking skills. There are many TV cookery programmes helping to increase interest in this area as it is always safer to cook food from scratch and know exactly which ingredients are in the food.

The food allergen management procedures within schools are very carefully managed to ensure the safety of the pupils. If a parent reports that their child has a food allergy, then the parent must ensure that there is medical evidence to support this. This process will naturally result in more food allergy testing than previous generations. Without the formal medical diagnosis, the child will not receive school meals. It has been acknowledged that that there is a huge increase in childhood allergies; currently 1 in 5 children have been diagnosed with at least one allergy, with many having multiple and severe allergies.

It is recognised that food allergy sufferers are also being diagnosed later in life, perhaps after suffering for years without a formal diagnosis. Nowadays, the medical profession has much more knowledge and understanding around this, when previously those allergies may have just been misdiagnosed as digestive problems or IBS.

It has also been noted that many deaths which were previously attributed to a severe asthma attack, may in fact have been the result of a severe anaphylactic reaction as the symptoms are very similar. It has also been recognised that previous allergy sufferers may have simply passed away without a diagnosis.

Jacqui McPeake, food allergen and catering specialist on behalf of Allergen Accreditation &
Julian Edwards FIH FCSI CFSP, CEO of Allergen Accreditation.

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Published on November 30th, 2021

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