“Unfortunately Australia does appear to be the food allergy capital of the world with Melbourne leading the way,” explains Professor Katie Allen, of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
This intriguing phenomenon appears to be a result of a myriad of causes: genetics, the geographical location of Australia, vitamin deficiencies and the over-hygienic, clean lifestyle of Australian parents. As a consequence, Australians possess the highest population of food allergy sufferers in the world, with studies showing that 10% of children up to 1 year of age are being affected, as stated by the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy.
Professor Allen explains the role of the Vitamin D hypothesis in terms of geographical location that “the further from the equator you live, the higher the risk of food allergy.” It has been found that lower levels of Vitamin D in children lead to a greater susceptibility to developing food allergies. Given Melbourne’s cooler climate, children are spending less time outdoors in the sun, indicating the higher rate of food allergies present in Melbourne.
The Australian lifestyle has been associated with uber-cleanliness and an overriding fear of germs, particularly for parents of infants or young children. With parents increasingly aware of the potential allergies and reactions to diverse foods, they are excluding or extending the delay of introduction of a variety of foods from their children’s diets. Furthermore, their restrictions on their children’s play in unclean environments are potentially more damaging than helpful to their children.
So what should we do? It is highly recommended by Professor Allen to expose children to microbes in different environments, such as farms. Introducing nuts and dairy in small amounts should occur within the first 6 months, while other foods such as peanuts and eggs to be introduced within the first year of an infant’s life.
Alternatively, those who are suffering from a food allergy or intolerance are aware of the dangers associated with exposure to the allergen/s, and as mentioned by Nhanh Cutajar, a mother of a two-year-old son who has multiple allergies, “It’s certainly a huge issue when we have lots of grandparents wanting to give children the food so their body ‘gets used to it’, which is of course a real danger.” ORGRAN’s trusted expertise in natural, gluten and allergen free, Australian-made foods enables these significant obstacles to be overcome and facilitate risk minimisation for all Australians, and around the world.