Since Natasha’s Law came into force in Wales and the rest of the UK on October 1 2021, which stipulated that all food outlets must provide a full ingredients list with clear allergen labelling on ‘PPDS’ food (any food that is not in packaging or is packaged after you have ordered), an extra layer of protection for allergy suffers has been been in place.
Natasha’s Law follows the tragic death of Fulham teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died after suffering an allergic reaction to a Pret a Manger baguette in July 2016.
Natasha had a sesame allergy and was not made aware that sesame seeds had been baked into the bread of the sandwich she had purchased.
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died in 2016 aged 15 from an allergic reaction after eating a Pret a Manger baguette containing hidden sesame seeds. Her family welcomed the introduction of Natasha’s Law. Photo: PA
However, common causes of severe allergic reactions are not confined to foods such as nuts, dairy products, and shellfish, with insect stings, medicines, and pollen also accounting for people seeking medical assistance.
In 2010, health boards in Wales reported that 801 people sought treatment for an allergic reaction. By 2018, that figure stood at 1,628.
Peanuts though are a common cause of food allergy, affecting around 1 in 50 children in the UK in recent decades. According the the British Medical Journal, this particular allergy is also one of the most commonest causes of food related deaths in the UK.
However, a US trial at the University of North Carolina with a new drug which seeks to try and combat reactions within children, saw seven out of ten participants achieve a desensitisation to the allergy after two and half years treatment.
After that time, the majority of young children given the peanut protein were able to safely consume the equivalent of approximately 16 peanuts of daily treatment, the study found.
The researchers described this as desensitisation.
According to the research, one in five children were able to repeat this food challenge 26 weeks after treatment ended, which was described as remaining in remission.
In children with a peanut allergy, starting the treatment – known as peanut oral immunotherapy – before the age of four was associated with an increase in both desensitisation and remission.
Further analysis indicated that children who were younger at the start of treatment were more likely than older children to achieve remission.
The authors called for more research to investigate this finding, as it may indicate a window of opportunity early in life when peanut oral immunotherapy is more effective.
Children were closely supervised in the trial and were offered small quantities of peanut protein powder, which was increased gradually to 2,000mg daily – the equivalent of six peanuts.
The study recruited 146 one- to three-year-olds, whose average tolerated dose of peanut protein was 25mg at study entry across five medical centres in the United States.
Ninety-six children were randomly assigned to the treatment and 50 children were randomly assigned to a placebo group.
Doses were mainly administered at home by parents, but each time the dose was increased, this was done in medical centres under observation.
In the study, 71% of children treated with peanut oral immunotherapy achieved desensitisation, compared with 2% in the placebo group.
Some 21% treated with peanut oral immunotherapy achieved remission compared with 2% in the placebo group.
The authors note some limitations to their study published in The Lancet, including that there was a high dropout rate between the end of treatment and the remission test after 26 weeks of avoidance.
Furthermore, 27% (22/81) of children in the treatment group and 20% (7/35) in the placebo group did not reach the 2,000mg maximum dose of treatment, potentially leading to an underestimation of the treatment response.
Previous research has suggested that peanut allergy affects 2% of children in Western countries and most remain allergic across their lifetime.
The current standard of care for children with peanut allergy is dietary avoidance and access to epi-pens, but the risk of severe reactions still exists.
In the UK, a new treatment called Palforzia, which contains peanut protein powder, was made available to about 600 children in England.
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