Senate leader initiates bill to bring awareness to food allergies

Senate Republican minority Leader Bob Huff is initiating a bill that would designate May 13-19, 2012 as Food Allergy Awareness Week in California. Along with the help from the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), Huff plans to shed some light on an issue that affects as many as 15 million Americans.

Anibal Ortiz / Daily Titan

Food allergies are a growing concern in the United States. Side effects and reactions can be harmful, but can be prevented.

Having an allergic reaction can be an intense experience. When the reaction occurs, the immune system wrongly attacks a protein from certain foods. This can cause the release of chemicals, like histamine, which can lead to the common symptoms of an allergic reaction — such as rashes, hives, swelling, trouble breathing and even anaphylaxis. The loss of consciousness due to an anaphylactic shock can be fatal.

“I am excited to help draw attention to what is becoming a serious epidemic in our society,” said Huff in a press release. “Given that there is no known cure for food allergies and reactions can be fatal if untreated, it is important to raise awareness in the public as to the seriousness of the condition.”

While potential cures are being researched, it is Huff’s goal for the Food and Allergy Awareness Week to be educational and prevent future emergencies.

“While there is promising research currently taking place on food allergy, none has been deemed a cure to date. So, since there are no known cures for food allergy, education and awareness are the only current plans for trying to reduce accidental ingestion and, in turn, trips to the hospital. Hence the need for resolutions like SCR 67,” Huff said in an email.

FAAN estimates that nearly six million of those dealing with hampering food allergies are under the age of 18. More than 300,000 ambulatory care visits occur each year involving some of those six million children who suffered an allergic reaction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among those children with an allergy is the daughter of Anne Muñoz-Furlong. She created FAAN in 1991 after struggling to find information on her daughter’s milk and egg allergy. Furlong’s and FAAN’s mission is to ”raise public awareness, to provide advocacy and education, and to advance research on behalf of all those affected by food allergies and anaphylaxis,” according to the website.

After working so closely with FAAN, Huff acknowledges their dedication to the issue.

“I appreciate the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network for bringing this issue to my attention and for their nationwide efforts to raise awareness and recognize this week in May,” Huff said in a press release.

While children are among the most unaware about their potential allergies, Huff wants to make sure that Food Allergy Awareness Week reaches everyone.

“SCR 67 is meant to raise awareness for all individuals living with food allergies. However, since there is a large amount of children dealing with it, I wanted to draw some additional attention to that fact,” Huff said in an email.

Archana McEligot, Ph.D., an associate professor for the Department of Health Science, said everyone should be educated on food allergies, as it is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

“I think food allergy awareness is important for children and adults. Not all foods are the same for all individuals, and at least being aware of potential allergies can improve health and, importantly, quality of life. Those with allergies should work with their physicians and also self-monitor to see which foods and at what degree are they allergic to depending on what they are consuming,” McEligot said in an email.

Madi Sears, 23, a human services major, has dealt with a seafood allergy for almost her entire life.

“When I was a kid and my parents would make fish for dinner, I did get sick a lot, and my parents thought that the fish must have been undercooked,” said Sears.

After being told by her doctor that her food poisoning-like symptoms were actually a food allergy, Sears now knows the importance of avoiding seafood. She hopes that children and others affected by allergies are prepared as well.

“Be aware. We weren’t aware of the pattern of me getting sick with seafood. So if you see yourself getting sick, write it down, and then avoid it,” Sears said.

About Hailey Moran