Peanut allergy therapy “protection not a cure”
The issue of controlling and treating food allergies has been an emerging area of real significance in food safety. A recent study by Kings College in London looked at the underlying behaviour of patient’s cells who suffer from food allergies when they are regularly exposed to small amounts of the food. The findings show that treating patients with a peanut allergy by exposing them to peanuts in a controlled manner is effective – but only if the patient stays on the therapy.
This shows that immunotherapy offers "protection but not a cure" for peanut allergies. This has been hailed as real progress with Allergy UK stating that while it is not a cure the treatment was a “positive step”.
It has been estimated about one in 50 British children has a peanut allergy of varying degrees of severity. There is no cure and the way it is generally managed by most people is by avoidance. This can have a huge impact on patient’s day to day life as they must constantly strive to avoid even the slightest contact with peanuts.
In immunotherapy, people are given a small amount of the substance they are allergic to every day in a strictly controlled manner. It works by prompting the immune system to produce antibodies that reduce the body's allergic response. If someone is then accidentally exposed to a small amount of peanut their body can tolerate it and as a result are less at risk of a serious reaction.
One of the aims of the study was to ascertain whether the immunotherapy could switch off the allergic response. Some patients had hoped they would be able to eat the implicated food on completion of the immunotherapy but results showed that this would only give them protection against accidental exposure with the protection continuing only while they were on the immunotherapy.
Food businesses must manage allergens in their premises across all aspects of what can be extremely complex food operations. All products must have accurate allergen declarations so the consumer has full and accurate information on the allergen content of the food they are about to purchase. In my opinion some of the integral components of a successful regime to control allergens are a robust HACCP plan with a well trained staff and a great food safety culture in the business.
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