• Saturday, October 01, 2022


Experts urge more awareness of food allergies at places of worship

Mosques and temples ‘must be allergy safe,’ say experts

By: Keerthi Mohan


FAMILIES need to be educated about suffering a severe allergic reaction following the death of a schoolboy who had cheese thrown at him, experts have recommended. They have also
called for places of worship and the NHS to work together to raise awareness of food allergies.

This week, the British government announced a law to better protect allergy sufferers after the death of a teenager, Natasha Ednan-Laperouse who suffered a fatal reaction after eating a baguette.

Under “Natasha’s law”, announced on Tuesday (25) and which will be enforced in 2021, food businesses must list all ingredients on pre-packaged food.

Last month, an inquest was held into the death of Asian student Karanbir Singh Cheema, 13, who had a dairy allergy.

Cheema fell unconscious after cheese was thrown at him by a fellow pupil at William Perkin
Church of England high school in Greenford, west London, in 2017 and died 10 days later in hospital.

Dr Adam Fox told the inquest the boy’s ethnicity could have increased the chances of him suffering a severe allergic reaction. The consultant paediatrician added the high pollen count, Cheema’s age, his asthma and chronic eczema may have also played a part.

Dr Fox, brought in by the Metropolitan Police to review the case, told St Pancras coroner’s court in May that anaphylactic shock from skin contact was “extraordinarily unusual” and he had never heard of it resulting in death.

Community leaders pointed to a lack of awareness about the link between being south Asian and suffering an anaphylactic shock.

Balraj Purewal, director of the Asian Health Agency, told Eastern Eye: “It needs to be publicised in the wider community to create awareness of allergic reactions.

“In the first generation, allergies were not really heard of, although with the newer generation the tide has changed.

“In the Sikh temple where langar is served, it is critical where food is concerned people are
made aware of what ingredients are used to be educated. You have milk, yoghurt served, dairy products, which are stored, there is a risk of cross contamination.

“I have not seen menus with what food is served and the ingredients displayed. For special occasions in temples information should be provided.”

Purewal added: “The NHS does not engage with our communities, it’s not long term, they pass messages on mental health, then obesity through leaflets for one month and then there’s [nothing] for the rest of the year.

“In some areas, we are not an ethnic minority, but the majority consumer like in Tower Hamlets, Wembley, Newham.”

The coroner at the inquest concluded the boy who threw cheese at Cheema did not intend to cause serious harm, but added that the school should have done more to prevent it.

Previous research has shown that British Asian children are more likely to have anaphylaxis
than their white conterparts. A study of hospital admissions for severe allergic reactions in Birmingham in 2012 found that the incident rate among south Asians was 58.3 cases per 100,000 people compared to 31.5 in the white population per 100,000 people.

Dr Mahendra Patel, an honourary visiting professor in pharmacy at the University of Bradford, said: “People who have allergies from minority ethnic groups need to check products or food ingredients that they or their child may be affected by and understand what the product contains.

“People sometimes don’t look at the small print.

“On the link between ethnicity and a severe allergic reaction, people need to be more mindful and aware of ingredients that family members are allergic to.

“I am a governor at a grammar school and every effort is made by schools to establish any allergies children may have, but for any new allergies, it is important that parents continue to notify the school.”

Some 44 per cent of British adults suffer from at least one allergy and the number of sufferers is on the rise with 48 per cent having more than one allergy.

In the 20 years to 2012 there was a 615 per cent increase in the rate of hospital admissions for anaphylaxis in the UK.

Mohamed Omer, a government adviser, urged mosques to play a bigger role in educating families.

He said: “There is little awareness about allergies. Mosques should play a central role in it.

“During iftar, they do not take this into account. As a community we do not do allergy testing. I cannot think of any mosques that have anything like this.

“I would welcome allergy workshops, particularly for mothers for their children.”

Eastern Eye

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