America has some knowledge of food allergies, but is confused about the difference between food allergies and celiac disease, according to results of a new nationwide survey released by HomeFree, makers of organic, ready-to-eat, whole-grain cookies free of common food allergens.
The survey of 1,013 U.S. adults, conducted by Harris Interactive by telephone From Jan. 28 to Jan. 31, 2010, found that three out of four Americans could correctly identify at least one food allergen from a list of foods including cinnamon, dairy, gluten, bananas, nuts, wheat and eggs. Smaller majorities could correctly identify nuts (65 percent) and dairy (60 percent). Less than half identified eggs (46 percent) and wheat (44 percent), correctly as common food allergens. Interestingly, a similar number (43 percent) incorrectly identified gluten as an allergen. Just 3 percent of Americans could correctly identify all four of the listed common food allergens (nuts, dairy, eggs and wheat) without making any incorrect identifications; while 19 percent correctly identified all the listed allergens, but also incorrectly included gluten as one of the allergens. More than one out of five Americans, or 22 percent, either don’t know or think none of those mentioned are common food allergens.
“We commissioned this survey out of concern for what appeared to be widespread confusion between food allergies and celiac disease, given the potentially serious health implications of such confusion,” said Jill Robbins, president and founder of HomeFree. “People want to be able to serve food safely to other people. To do so, it helps to know that people with celiac disease – a disorder in which people have sensitivity to gluten, found in foods such as wheat, rye and barley – can get sick sometimes even from traces of gluten. It also is important to know which foods are actually common food allergens. That is because if someone with food allergies eats even a trace of a food to which he or she is allergic, it can quickly lead to a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis.”
The survey also revealed how Americans interpret the urgency of food allergic reactions, including in comparison to gluten sensitivity reactions. The survey found that that more than half of Americans surveyed, or 54 percent, correctly believed that when someone who has a wheat allergy eats a brownie and has a physical reaction, it could be an immediate life-threatening emergency, while about the same number, or 57 percent, of Americans incorrectly believed it could be an immediate life-threatening emergency when someone who is not supposed to eat gluten eats a brownie and has a physician reaction. This number goes up to 68 percent of Americans when including those who identified at least one situation incorrectly (i.e. someone who is not supposed to eat gluten, and/or someone who has celiac disease). Of further concern, fewer than half of Americans, 46 percent, correctly see someone reacting with a dairy allergy as similarly being at risk.
According to HomeFree, the results indicate a need for further education about allergies in general, as well as about the difference between wheat allergies and gluten sensitivities.
Robbins said, “People want to know what to do if a loved one, or someone in their care, suddenly has symptoms. Accidental ingestion of gluten for someone with celiac disease can be extremely uncomfortable, but is not an immediate life threatening emergency and is not treated with epinephrine. Accidental ingestion of a food allergen can lead to anaphylaxis, the successful treatment of which depends on rapid treatment with epinephrine (Epipen or Twinject).”
This allergen study was conducted by telephone by Harris Interactive on behalf of BML Public Relations/HomeFree between Jan. 28 and Jan. 31, 2010, among 1,013 adults comprised of 510 men and 503 women 18 years of age and older, living in private households in the continental United States.
April 8, 2010 – Posted in Articles, Gluten-Free, Industry News