Mom of peanut allergy victim: Her last words were ‘I’m sorry’

Louis and Joanne Giorgi sat together in the backyard of their Carmichael home Wednesday morning. They held each others’ hands and clutched tissues as they spoke publicly for the first time since their 13-year old daughter died from an allergic reaction to a dessert treat they had no idea contained peanuts.

“To have lost her is devastating,” Joanne Giorgi told KCRA 3′s Mike TeSelle.

KCRA Channel 3 reports Natalie Giorgi’s parents are speaking publicly in hopes of using their daughter’s death as a push for change, and a vehicle for educating the public about peanut-victim2-JPGthe seriousness of food allergies.

“This can be a catalyst for a paradigm shift, much the way seat belt use has changed since when we were kids,” Louis Giorgi said.

Natalie Giorgi died July 26 after eating a Rice Krispie treat that had been prepared with peanut products at Camp Sacramento on the final day of a multi-family camping trip, her parents said.

Giorgi had a documented allergy to peanuts.

“We had been there before. We had eaten their Rice Krispie treats before. We had never had a problem before,” Louis Giorgi said.

Giorgi said immediately after taking one bite of the treat, his daughter told her parents.

She had been dancing with friends when she took the bite.

“We gave her Benadryl like we’d been told,” Natalie’s father said.

Over the next several minutes, the Giorgis said their daughter showed no signs of a reaction whatsoever.

“I kept asking, ‘are you OK?’ She kept telling me she was fine, and she wanted to go back to dancing with her friends,” Natalie’s mom said. 

Natalie kept asking her parents to go back to her friends, but they kept telling her she had to stay with them, to make sure she was OK.

“Then suddenly, she started vomiting,” Louis said. “It spiraled downhill out of control so quickly.”

Natalie’s father, a physician, administered both of the EPI-Pens — used to slow or stop an allergic reaction — that the family carried with them.

A third was obtained from the camp and administered. None of them stopped her reaction. Her dad called 911.

“I did everything right, in my opinion. I couldn’t save her,” Louis Giorgi said.

Emergency responders who arrived later couldn’t save her, either.

“She had been fine, and had been talking to us. This was a worst-case scenario. One of the last things she said was, ‘I’m sorry mom,’” Natalie mother said as she wiped a tear away from her cheek.

The Giorgis said one of the many reasons they are sharing Natalie’s story is to convince skeptical parents that food allergies in children is very real.

More information can be found at Nateam.org.

This is nuts: parents blast NZ TV prank

An on-screen prank that involved smearing peanut butter on the face of a children’s television presenter pretending to have a nut allergy has outraged parents of children suffering from the affliction.

The New Zealand Herald reports What Now presenter Adam Percival had his face covered in peanut butter during yesterday adam.percivalmorning’s show on TV2 as part of a segment about allergies.

Despite Percival not being allergic to nuts, the segment drew harsh criticism from parents who labeled it “irresponsible” and feared terrible consequences if children imitated the prank.

One concerned mother said she would lay a complaint with the industry watchdog, the Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA).

What Now took to Facebook to defend the segment, saying Percival was safe and the prank was a way to highlight the issue.

“Our intention is never to make fun of anybody who has allergies, but to make sure we highlight the fact that having an allergy is a serious issue,” said the post.

It had generated more than 60 comments by 6.30 last night.

Dion McCracken, whose son has a serious nut allergy, was not convinced by the explanation.

“Great for Adam. A shame for my son who may now be exposed to kids at school thinking your prank was a great idea,” he said.

“If one kid that watched the prank thinks it’s funny to smear peanut butter on an allergy kid, there is a very real threat of anaphylaxis and rapid death.

“What Now didn’t have ill intent, but they’ve just taught thousands of Kiwi kids that doing this isn’t a big deal. It really is.”

Claire Eveleigh said she was going to lay a complaint.

“It’s very scary that you are defending yourself on a topic you clearly do not know much about. Not knowing is OK … but broadcasting on TV about it is not OK … I will be making a complaint to the BSA about this.”

1 child sickened; Sydney company fined $48K for failing to declare allergen in cakes

It’s how they roll down here – in some states.

A Sydney cake manufacturing business and its Director who sold food containing undeclared allergens on multiple occasions, one time resulting in a child suffering an allergic reaction, have been convicted and fined a combined $48,000 plus $21,000 in professional costs in the Chief Industrial Magistrates Court.

Sunfield Australia and its Director Vivien Sun were each prosecuted under the Food Act 2003 for producing and selling sunfield.australiacakes containing nut and egg that were not declared on the label.

NSW (that’s New South Wales, it’s a state in Australia) Food Authority CEO Polly Bennett said the result was particularly pleasing given the danger to health posed by allergic reactions.

“More than 160,000 people in NSW suffer a food allergy of some sort and statistics show one in ten babies born in Australia today will develop a food allergy,” Ms Bennett said.

“Unfortunately at the most serious end of the scale these allergies can prove fatal.

“Consumers rely upon the labels to provide accurate information about the foods they buy and consume.

“The importance of that label cannot be underestimated, for some people it can literally be a matter of life and death.

“Most concerning in this matter is the fact that the company and its Director were on notice of the problems with their labelling following earlier investigations by the Authority.

“Just as the wider community does, the NSW Food Authority expects manufacturers to respect their customers, respect the law and meet their responsibilities.”

The company Sunfield Australia was convicted of 9 offences and the Director Vivien Sun convicted of 7 offences including:
Fail to comply with the Food Standards Code in the conduct of a food business: s21(1); Sell food that was labelled in a manner that contravened the Food Standards Code:s21(3) and Sell food that the person ought reasonably know was falsely described and is likely to cause physical harm to a consumer who relies on the description: s15(4)

An initial investigation by the NSW Food Authority in March 2010 found the Company sold cakes containing undeclared nuts. Despite a formal recall of the products, a number of cakes with the incorrect labels were found by the Authority to be still on sale after the recall.

In August 2010, the Company sold cakes containing undeclared egg which resulted in a child suffering an allergic reaction. Following an investigation by the Authority and a subsequent recall of these products, the Authority again found cakes with the incorrect labelling still on sale after the recall.

These matters followed an earlier incident in 2006, where the company was fined for failing to declare walnuts in their product.

In passing sentence, the presiding Magistrate noted that the offences were of a serious nature. Consumers rely on the information contained in labels, and it was well known that allergic reactions can sometimes prove fatal, making general deterrence a significant component of any penalty imposed. In the circumstances, the delay by the Company in implementing the recall after the illness of the child was particularly egregious.

The Court also rejected submissions by the offenders that they did not realise the seriousness of their actions, given that by August 2010, they were well aware of their obligations.

The company has been placed on the NSW Food Authority’s Name and Shame register.

Ooey, Ooey, Ooey, Ooey Allergies

The Wiggles, Australia’s highest-grossing and soon to be retired musical act, played a farewell gig last week after an 18 month reunion of their original lineup. The make-up album brought a song about allergies that Sam, our two-year-old, likes with the line, You can have a reaction to foods that you eat, it can be really serious with shellfish nuts and seeds.

I don’t have any food allergies that I know of, but I’ve had a couple of reactions to ASA (the compound found in Aspirin) resulting in a body full of hives for six weeks. That sucked, but it was just an inconvenience. Food allergy sufferers have reactions somewhere on a continuum between this nuisance and death. If The Wiggles are an indicator, the recognition and public discussion around allergens has increased but along with the attention comes a potentially dangerous attitude that an allergy isn’t severe, or the kid’s parents are overly protective.

And then comes the bullying. NJ.com reports that Dr. Eyal Shemesh and colleagues at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have published a study in Pediatrics that shows that kids with allergies are bullied at a higher rate than their peers, which might cause them to avoid interventions.

The suffering is often done in silence. Nearly half of parents surveyed said they were unaware of the bullying, though both the bullied children and their parents reported experiencing higher stress levels and lower quality of life.

“Parents and pediatricians should routinely ask children with food allergy about bullying,” said Dr. Eyal Shemesh, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Finding out about the child’s experience might allow targeted interventions, and would be expected to reduce additional stress and improve quality of life for these children trying to manage their food allergies.”

Food service staff, the front-line folks for allergy protection, can’t tell whether an allergic reaction is going to lead to patron’s slight discomfort or worse. Allergen control and food safety practices are similar, but at the root of both issues is the organization and employee’s recognition of risks, reduction methods and evaluating whether everyone is really doing it. In the June 2013 issue of Food Control, Ji Hee Choi and Lakshman Rajagopal discuss knowledge, attitude and self-reported practices of food service employees regarding food allergies. When asked on a survey, food service staff report that allergens are important – but they couldn’t always identify what the allergens of concern are, and seemed to not retain specific allergen knowledge from training.

From the discussion:
Respondents in this study were knowledgeable about what a food allergy is and how to handle customers with food allergies; however, most respondents were not knowledgeable about the top eight food allergens from a given list of allergens…
 Employees scored higher on attitudinal statements related to the importance of foodservice staff providing accurate information to customers with food allergies to prevent incidences of food allergy reactions. However, employees were not confident about effectively handling food allergy emergencies. Employees’ positive attitudes toward food allergies and handling patrons with food allergies might be explained by the possession of food safety certification, which could also be a proxy for training received. However, no significant differences in knowledge scores were observed between employees who had received food safety certification and those who were not certified. This indicates that while certification and training maybe crucial for improving knowledge, it might not always be the case, as employees might not retain the knowledge or the training may not have contained updated information about food allergies.

Training matters, but not much (if retention counts) – and self reported practices don’t always match real life. The studied staff know something is up with allergens (maybe because the consequences are high), but don’t know exactly what to focus on. The less-trusting patrons of a food business who are looking for verification that their food is allergen-free can explore a bevy of apps to track symptoms, explore product ingredients or do uh, colormetric assays to look for traces of proteins (test reliability might be problematic).

From NPR’s The Salt:

Ozcan’s lab on a phone looks like it could take care of the inaccuracy problem. But the prototype requires users to undertake a mini chemistry experiment. They would have to grind up the food, mix it in a test tube with hot water and a solvent, and then mix it with a series of testing liquids. That process takes about 20 minutes.

 

Food allergies linked to hygiene hypothesis? ‘If fewer allergies is more infection, no parent would expose their child to more infection’

People from well-educated families are almost twice as likely to suffer from some dangerous food allergies as others — possibly because their bodies’ natural defences have been lowered by rigorous hygiene and infection control, suggests a new Canadian study.

The research from McGill University also found that immigrants were about half as likely to be afflicted by the allergies, perhaps reflecting differences in diet and environment between their countries of origin and Canada.

The study, just published in the Journal of Allergy, was meant to address an enduring medical mystery: Why have so many people in certain industrialized countries developed violent reactions to peanuts, shellfish and other foods in recent decades?

The link to higher education may be explained by what is called the hygiene hypothesis, the unproven idea that smaller families, cleaner homes, more use of antibiotics to treat infections and vaccines to prevent them have curbed development of the immune system, said Dr. Moshe Ben-Shoshan, who led the research. That in turn could make some people more susceptible to allergy.

If the hypothesis does actually explain some food reactions, though, parents may not be able to do much about it, admitted the allergist at Montreal Children’s Hospital. The benefits of such health products as antibiotics and vaccines easily outweigh the risk of children developing serious allergies, said Dr. Ben-Shoshan.
“We can’t suggest we become dirtier and expose our children to more bacteria,” he said. “If the price of having fewer allergies is more infection, I don’t know any parent who would expose their child to more infection.”

The study’s findings are far from conclusive but they, and the hygiene hypothesis as an explanation, seem plausible, said Dr. Stuart Carr, president of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. He also cautioned, however, that translating the knowledge into preventive action would be complicated.

Allergies are no laughing matter

I have food allergies but they are not life-threatening, I just get hives like Woogie from “There’s Something About Mary.”

However, some people get serious allergic reactions and a waiter shouldn’t ignore that or make fun of it. Makes me wonder what else they don’t know about the industry they work in.

In response to a reader’s dining experience, FloFab replied  “Obviously that wait person has been badly trained and the restaurant could use a wake-up call.”

It’s important for restaurants to properly train their staff members to keep people from getting sick; be it from foodborne pathogens or allergies.
 

Don’t let allergies ruin the enjoyment of Christmas treats

Of all the holiday feasts our family has each year, Christmas is my absolute favorite.  Sure the turkey and stuffing are wonderful during Thanksgiving, but nothing can beat the wonderful sweets that are available during Christmas season.  Chocolate-dipped pretzels, sugar cookies with icing and sprinkles, peppermint bark, homemade fudge… Chocolate chip cookies are a staple at our house during the holidays.  We keep some around in case of a chocolate emergency (Quick! I need a cookie!), or if my Uncle Scott and his family come over.  Uncle Scott loves my Mom’s cookies; they taste terrific and are guaranteed to be nut-free.

Uncle Scott is one of nearly 7 million Americans that suffer from a true food allergy, and one of 3 million who are allergic to peanuts and treat nuts.
While many people often have gas, bloating or another unpleasant reaction to something they eat, this is not an allergic response, it’s considered a food intolerance.
In people suffering from food allergies, some foods can cause severe illness and, in some cases, a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) that can constrict airways in the lungs, severely lower blood pressure, and cause suffocation by the swelling of the tongue or throat.

The most common foods to cause allergies in adults are shrimp, lobster, crab, and other shellfish; walnuts and other tree nuts; fish; and eggs.  In children, eggs, milk, peanuts, soy and wheat are the main culprits. Children typically outgrow their allergies to milk, egg, soy and wheat, while allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shrimp usually are not outgrown.

Uncle Scott is allergic to tree nuts, so he is extra careful to avoid certain homemade Christmas treats that typically have nuts in them.  He also has the lucky ability to tell if something has nuts in it within the first few seconds he puts it in his mouth, which allows more time to get the Benadryl.  Not everyone is so lucky, many don’t know if the food was contaminated with allergens until their throat starts to close up or they break out into hives.

If you or someone you know suffers from food allergies, there are a few different steps you can take to help them enjoy the holidays worry-free.  First, knowing what allergen to avoid allows a host/hostess to prepare a special side dish or treat for the allergic individual so be sure to let your host know of any allergies.  Cross-contamination must be taken into account when preparing the allergen-free dish.  Preparation surfaces and tools should be cleaned thoroughly to remove germs and also any trace of the allergen.  For example, it’s not a good idea to prepare sugar cookie dough in the same place that walnut cookie dough was prepared.  It often doesn’t take much of the allergen to affect an individual.

Enjoy those holiday treats, just prepare them safely and make sure allergic individuals are aware of the contents.  For some food-allergy-friendly recipes, you can visit the websites below:
Food Allergy-Free Holiday Recipes from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

Food Allergy Recipes and Special Diets from About.com Home Cooking