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Peter Rabbit Should be Rated “R” for Reckless

February 11, 2018 •  no comments.

 •  Blog, News

Sony Picture’s Peter Rabbit has garnered a lot of headlines since its release. But we haven’t yet heard from the children that the allergy bullying scenes impact. That is until now. Please meet 9 year old, Anna Coleman from Colorado Springs. She shares her take on the film and what families and film companies need to do next. We have left this completely unedited, in her own words.

Anna Coleman, 9 – The movie Peter Rabbit is now playing at theaters. I was really excited to see it, but now I’m mad. In it, food allergies are shown as a way to hurt others and joked about as being not a big deal. Peter Rabbit is rated PG, but it should be rated R for reckless.

I was diagnosed with a life-threatening peanut allergy when I was two years old. I just turned nine. I’ve had other food allergies over the years come and go, like lemon, that was a weird one, but the peanut one is never going away. I’ve passed the age for growing out of it, and my IGE keeps going up.

Kids with food allergies have lots of anxiety and stress. We are always worried about if our food is allergen free, and where our allergen could be hiding. When people say my allergy is not a big deal, like Peter does in the movie, I don’t feel safe. When my friends tell me they have peanuts in their lunches and laugh, I don’t feel safe. Even our “safe” adults like teachers and family don’t always keep us safe and make mistakes. The bullies might see this movie and get ideas too.

To help distract me from my anxieties, I like to watch movies and shows. I don’t want to go see a movie and feel these feelings I feel most days. I want to get away from them! I’m speaking my heart here, and my heart says that this is wrong. Allergy kids have enough to deal with. We shouldn’t be fighting for adults to understand how wrong this is too. If you have allergies you’ll understand.

Sony Pictures should get rid of the scene where Peter Rabbit mocks the character’s food allergy and the scene when Peter and his friends cause him to have an allergic reaction to try to kill him. I want to be able to see the movie without being scared. No one, not grownups, kids or rabbits should mock each other for our differences. I try my best to be a kind and happy kid. The movie producers should try their best to be kind too.

You may think you’re good people, no one said you weren’t, but when you help other good people that makes you a really, really good person.

Please take the allergy scenes out of the movie. I may only be nine years old, and may not be tall or strong, but my voice speaks louder than any actions or inactions you take. Some adults that are way older than me haven’t even felt what I have felt. Having to be worried that you’re going to get hurt or die if you eat something wrong. I just want to have a great life as long as I can, and not get killed from peanuts. It’s a serious thing, and Sony Pictures should not joke about it. They need to think about how they’d feel if they had an allergy that was life-threatening. It shouldn’t be hard for the movie creators to see how helping, not making our lives harder, is the best thing to do here.

I want to challenge other kids with allergies to rise up and make their voices heard about this. I thought that I couldn’t do anything until I saw my older sister speak out for what she believes in. When you’re scared, but you speak up anyway, it makes you feel like you can do anything. Kids make a difference every day to create change in our world. They do! And so can you! This affects us, our families and our friends, so why can’t we try to do something about it?

If you do speak up, please use #KidsMadAtPeterRabbit. Believe in yourself, because I believe in you.

Anna Coleman, age 9

Colorado Springs, CO

U.S. of Allergies: How EpiPen Became a Billion Dollar Brand

February 2, 2018 •  one comment.

 •  Blog, News

The number of people in the U.S. with food allergies is skyrocketing.

For the last year, we’ve been working to bring an awareness to the risk that the skyrocketing price of EpiPens creates, and the fact that some families are now priced out of this life saving devices due to its jaw-dropping price tag of about $600.

As recently as the 3rd quarter of 2015, the price of one EpiPen was at $300.  But that number is misleading, as the product is sold in a two-pack, so the consumer has to pay $600.  In some cases, like this week in Colorado, a parent paid over $700 for the exact same device that just six years ago cost $100.  No product changes, no device changes, and the key ingredient inside only costs a few dollars.

So what’s going on?

There is very little competition on the market which only makes matters worse.  Last year, Auvi-Q, an alternative device designed by twin brothers who wanted an easy-to-carry option was recalled.  The New York Times covered their amazing story in 2013 and the sale of their company to Sanofi.  It was short-lived.

According to the FDA,  “As of October 26, 2015, Sanofi has received 26 reports of suspected device malfunctions in the US and Canada. None of these device malfunction reports have been confirmed.”

So the entire product line was recalled because of 26 unconfirmed reports.  26 unconfirmed reports.

Apparently, a very similar device is also used to deliver other medications and no reports have been mentioned or product recalls announced.  According to Kaleo Pharma, “on April 3, 2014, the FDA approved EVZIO, the first and only naloxone auto-injector intended to be available for emergency administration by family members or caregivers in cases of known or suspected opioid overdose. The company’s first product approval, Auvi-Q™ (www.Auvi-Q.com) (Allerject™ in Canada), was licensed to Sanofi US which launched the product in early 2013.”

Kaléo, the developer of the Auvi-Q epinephrine auto-injector appears to be planning the return of its “talking” device to market.

The Virginia-based company recently regained the rights to the auto-injector from Sanofi US following a full device recall in the fall of 2015. “We now own the product. We are in the process of figuring out when and how best to bring Auvi-Q back to the market,” Spencer Williamson, president and CEO of Kaléo. According to the Richmond Times “earlier this year, Sanofi US and Kaléo terminated a 2009 agreement that called for Sanofi to manufacture and market the Auvi-Q auto injector.Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 5.11.48 PM

“A Sanofi representative at the time said the company was able to retrieve some of the 26 devices consumers reported not working correctly but was not able to identify a malfunction in the device.”

The entire product line was recalled because of 26 unconfirmed reports that the company itself was not able to identify.

A competitor can’t come on the market soon enough.  Stories of needles breaking and failed EpiPen injections riddle social media conversations and private food allergy groups.  Consumers have been priced out by a product that Fast Company called a “faulty design,” and lives are at risk.

The rate of people with peanut allergy in the United States more than quadrupled between 1997 and 2010.  A life-threatening food allergic reaction now sends someone to the E.R. once every three minutes in the U.S.

The food industry is getting in on it.  Mondelez, formerly known as Kraft, recently acquired Enjoy Life Foods, a popular and well-loved brand in the allergy space, free from many of the top eight allergens and also free from genetically modified ingredients.

It was a $40 million company that was acquired for over $80 million.

What does Mondelez plan to do with the acquisition? Grow it into a billion dollar brand.

What are some other billion dollar brands? Cheerios, Lays, Pepsi, Starbucks….

And EpiPen.

According to Bloomberg, “In a 2007 purchase of medicines from Merck, drug maker Mylan picked up a decades-old product, the EpiPen auto injector for food allergy and bee-sting emergencies. Management first thought to divest the aging device, which logged only $200 million in revenue. Today, it’s a $1.2 billion-a-year product that clobbers its rivals and provides about 40 percent of Mylan’s operating profits.” Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 5.13.16 PM

Food allergies are not a niche, it is a growing epidemic that is challenging how we think about our food and how it is made. Genetic factors don’t change this quickly, environmental factors do. Are we allergic to food or to what’s been done to it?  A lot of families now pay more for free-from food, because we don’t know the answer to that question.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Researchers report that the costs of food allergies, from medical care to food to pharmaceuticals is $4,184 per child per year, costing our economy $25 billion, including lost productivity.[/su_pullquote]

Researchers reporting in the Journal of the American Medical Association states that the costs of food allergies, from medical care to food to pharmaceuticals is $4,184 per child per year, costing our economy $25 billion, including lost productivity.

On top of that, the costs to families with food allergies is skyrocketing. After insurance company discounts, a package of two EpiPens costs about $415. By comparison, in France, where Meda sells the drug, two EpiPens cost about $85. Back in 2007, when the company was purchased, it cost $57. EpiPens wholesale price rose 400% since 2007 and 32% in the last year alone. EpiPen margins were 55 percent in 2014, up from 9 percent in 2008.

food allergiesAccording to Bloomberg, the company’s marketing techniques play on the fears of parents and caregivers. There is no incentive here to find a cure or to stop the condition. Sales are explosive.

To discount this condition in any way is irresponsible, but it is just one of the conditions that is triggering a food awakening around the country.

In the last year, Target, Chipotle, Kroger, even General Mills and Cheerios have responded to this growing demand in the marketplace. Free-from foods are showing up in Dollar Tree stores.

These companies aren’t stupid.  They see the escalating rates of diseases in their own employees, they feel the financial impact with their own health care costs, and they hear consumers that are saying they want to eat fewer fake, artificial and genetically engineered ingredients.

While the chemical companies selling these new ingredients say there is no evidence of harm, consumers are saying: there is no evidence since these ingredients were never labeled in the United States.

In other words, if you walked into an allergist’s office and asked if you were allergic to soy that has been in the food supply for thousands of years or if you are allergic to Roundup Ready soy, non-GMO soy treated with Roundup or organic soy, there would be no test to give you that answer. Next time, you are at the allergist’s office, ask which soy they are testing for.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]With no labels on GMO ingredients in the US to trace their impact and no test to offer definitive answers, the biotech industry is able to claim that there is not a single documented case of these foods ever causing harm.[/su_pullquote]

Mylan price gougingThe explosion in EpiPen sales is significant.  It’s significant to the families that use them and delivers significant revenue to the pharmaceutical company selling them, especially here in the United States. EpiPen actually represents 40% of Mylan’s profits.

A study released in the Journal of the American Medical Association, says yes, living in the United States increases your risk of allergic diseases……“significantly.”

“Living in the US raises risk of allergies,” says the headline.

According to the research, living in the United States for a decade or more may raise the risk of some allergies, reports the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“These data indicate that duration of residence in the United States is a previously unrecognized factor in the epidemiology of atopic disease,” it said.

In other words, the longer you live here, the more likely you are to develop some kind of allergy, asthma, eczema or other related condition.

Food allergies have been skyrocketing in the United States in the last fifteen years. Not only has the CDC reported a 265% increase in the rates of hospitalizations related to food allergic reactions in a ten year period, but the sales of EpiPens, a life-saving medical device for those with food allergies, has also seen record sales growth according to the New York Times.

So what’s going on?

The study aimed to find out. Allergies reported in the survey included asthma, eczema, hay fever, and food allergies.

“Children born outside the United States had significantly lower prevalence of any allergic diseases (20.3%) than those born in the United States (34.5%),” said the study led by Jonathan Silverberg of St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York.

Let’s restate that:

Children born in the US have more than a 1 in 3 chance of having allergic diseases like food allergies, asthma or eczema, while kids born in other countries around the world had a “significantly lower prevalence” of 1 in 5.

On top of that, “foreign-born Americans develop increased risk for allergic disease with prolonged residence in the United States,” it said.

In other words, if you move here, your chances of developing any one or more of these allergic diseases increase.

The study went so far as to say that children born outside of the US who moved here showed “significantly” higher odds of developing these diseases.

What’s driving this? Is it really Purel and intense handwashing? And the hygiene hypothesis?

And are we allergic to food? Or what’s been done to it?

Because genetics don’t change that quickly, and the environment does.

This presents a risk not only to these children, but also to our economy, as the financial burden of these conditions and their associated health care costs impact not only families but also our country, our military and our productivity.

So what is triggering this escalating, US allergy epidemic?

According to Reuters report on the study and Dr. Ruchi Gupta, who studies allergies at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago but wasn’t involved in the new research, “This is definitely something we see clinically and we’re trying to better understand, what is it in our environment that’s increasing the risk of allergic disease?” said

“Food allergies have increased tremendously,” she told Reuters Health. “We do see people who come from other countries don’t tend to have it.”

According to Science Daily:

Genetically engineered crops are created by inserting a protein from a different organism into the original crop’s genome. This is usually done to create a plant that is more resistant to insects or diseases.

The Food and Agriculture Organization within the World Health Organization has a structured approach to determining whether genetically engineered foods cause allergies, according to Venu Gangur, MSU assistant professor of food science and human nutrition, who also is a faculty member in the National Food Safety and Toxicology Center. “But it has a major flaw. A critical question in that process asks, ‘Does the protein cause an allergic reaction in animals?’ The problem is that there has been no good animal model available to test this.”

It’s food for thought.

The cost of food allergies is burdening more than just the families dealing with them, it’s burdening our schools, our health care system and our economy. It has become a billion dollar business in less than a decade for the company making EpiPens, so they have no reason to stop it.

Until there’s a cure, there’s EpiPen, but there used to be TwinJect and Auvi-Q, too.  They are both gone, and consumers are left with a product on the market that was first originally used by the military, whose patent somehow hasn’t expired and whose design has invited countless criticism from both patients and practitioners for its broken needles. It leaves a lot to be desired and a lot of Americans asking the one question: Why 6 price increases in 6 years for a now $600 device?

It reminds us here of another company and their infamous tagline: Ask Why.

That company was Enron.  And it’s time for both consumers and members of Congress to “ask why” we are seeing this outrageous increase in the price of EpiPens.

Lives are at risk.

Food Allergies and Sensitivities, What You Need to Know

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It’s Food Allergy Awareness Week this week.  In the early years of this work, when you spoke about food allergies, people used to look at you like you were making food allergies up.  How could a child be allergic to food?  And since when?  As kids, we ate PB&Js and had cartons of milk for lunch at school. They weren’t loaded weapons on a lunchroom table.  What’s changed?  And why has it changed so fast?

According to UCLA Health System, “The occurrence of allergic disease is skyrocketing, and some estimates are that as many as one-in-five Americans have an allergic condition.”

You don’t have to tell that to parents.

Today, a food allergic reaction sends someone to the emergency room once every three minutes.  One in ten children struggle with asthma, and one in four are affected by allergies. The incidence of allergy has increased significantly over the past two decades, and allergy to peanuts more than doubled from 1997 to 2002. The National Association of Nurses now says 19% of school age children have a food allergy.

In the last twenty years, there has been a 400% increase in the rates of allergies in children and a 300% increase in the rates of asthma, with at least a 56% increase in the number of asthma-related deaths.

Approximately 30 million children – more than 1/3 of our kids – are affected by one of the four new childhood epidemics – allergies, asthma, ADHD and autism, earning our children the title of “Generation Rx” and these condition the title “the 4As.”

This is not something we can just accept nor can we afford to ignore.

And it’s not just affecting children.

The official statistic holds that allergies affect millions of Americans, including about 6-8 percent of children below the age of three. That information comes courtesy of U.S. Food and Drug Administration Deputy Commissioner Lester M. Crawford, J., D.V.M., Ph.D., speaking before the Consumer Federation of America on April 22, 2002.  It is over ten years old.

Since then, the Centers for Disease Control issued a report in 2008 that said that there has been a 265% increase in the rate of hospitalizations related to food allergic reactions.

Since when did a PB&J and a carton of milk become so dangerous?

This begs explanation.

An allergy is basically an overreaction by your immune system to a protein that it perceives as a threat—for example, the proteins in particular types of food, the dust mite protein, or pollen. For people without allergies, these proteins are harmless. But if you’ve got an allergy, your immune system sees these proteins as dangerous invaders.

To drive the invader out, your immune system mobilizes all its resources: mucous, to flush out the intruder; vomiting, to force it out; diarrhea, to expel it quickly. Such conditions may make you feel sick, but they’re actually evidence of your body’s attempts to get well.

A key aspect of the immune response is known as inflammation, characterized by one or more of four classic symptoms: redness, heat, swelling, and pain. Inflammation doesn’t occur only in allergic reactions; it flares up whenever your body feels threatened, in response to a bruise, cut, bacteria, or virus as well as to otherwise harmless pollen, dust, or food. Scientists now believe that much of our immune system is found in our digestive tracts, where many of these inflammatory reactions occur in the form of stomachaches, cramping, nausea, bloating, and vomiting.

Ironically, the immune system’s inflammatory reaction—meant to heal and protect the body—often causes more problems than the initial “invader” in the cases when allergic reactions become life-threatening.

Common Symptoms of Food Allergy: Immediate Reactions

  • rash or hives
  • nausea
  • stomach pain
  • diarrhea
  • itchy skin
  • eczema
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • swelling of the airways to the lungs
  • anaphylaxis

Food Allergies and Food Sensitivity: Our Immune System Overreacts Again

At first glance, the distinction between “allergies” and “sensitivity” may seem like a meaningless word game. But understanding the relationship between these two conditions is crucial to grasping the true nature of the allergy epidemic—and to seeing how even the supposedly healthy foods in our kitchens may be harmful to our health.

As we’ve seen, allergies are an overreaction of our immune system, a kind of exaggerated response to a perceived danger. When a child comes in contact with these proteins (peanut, egg, wheat, etc.) her immune system “recognizes” the protein as dangerous, just as it would have seen the danger in the bacterium that causes pneumonia or the virus that causes mumps. In response, her immune system creates special “fighter” proteins called antibodies designed to identify and neutralize the “invader.”

These fighter proteins are known as immunoglobulin E, or IgE for short. When they’re released into the bloodstream, their purpose is to “seek and destroy” the invader, which they do by creating one or more of the classic food allergy symptoms, such as the hives, or the diarrhea with which other children respond, or, in more extreme cases, the anaphylactic shock that can kill a child within minutes.

The classic IgE response occurs within minutes or even seconds, because IgE proteins are some of the most aggressive antibodies we know. That immediate IgE response is the defining characteristic of an allergic reaction.

Food sensitivities start out in a similar way. If a “sensitive” child is exposed to a protein that his system perceives as a threat, he’ll manufacture another type of fighter protein, known as Immunglobulin G, or IgG. Although IgE and IgG antibodies play similar roles, they produce somewhat different—though often overlapping—symptoms.

A crucial difference between the two, though, is their reaction time. The less aggressive IgG antibodies typically produce a delayed response that might not appear for hours or even days after the child has consumed the offending food.

So even though food sensitivities and food allergies both produce painful, inflammatory, and potentially dangerous responses, this delayed reaction time has led many doctors to give food sensitivities second-class status. Partly that’s because they don’t present an immediate and obvious threat to children’s lives: only the IgE proteins trigger anaphylactic shock, for example, and in that sense, only the IgE proteins can kill (though the IgG reaction can have serious long-term consequences). Unfortunately, some doctors tend to downplay the importance of nutrition, frequently dismissing the idea that such symptoms as earache, eczema, crankiness, brain fog, and sleep problems might be related to a child’s diet.

However, an article in The Lancet, Britain’s most respected medical journal, casts another light on the subject. The article referred to doctors who use elimination diets—diets that begin with a very limited, “safe” array of food choices and then add potentially problematic foods back into the diet, one by one.

The reason to do an elimination diet is to identify which foods in your diet might be triggering symptoms like skin rashes, fatigue, or stomach ache. Often, some foods affect us without our realizing it and we live with the symptoms, taking medicine to alleviate the suffering. But if you eliminate these foods from your diet, you may find that your symptoms disappear. What becomes even more interesting is that when you reintroduce the offending food, you may suddenly suffer drastic symptoms which make it clear that the food was indeed triggering one or more problems. An elimination diet can sometimes reveal with dramatic speed that a particular food you’ve always believed was harmless is actually causing such chronic symptoms as headache, digestive problems, and even more serious complaints. Masked by your daily diet and by the slowness of the food-sensitivity reaction, the offending food does its dirty work without ever realizing that it is the culprit behind your—or your child’s—disorders.

When you take a break from eating that problem food, however, and then add it back into your diet, you see how powerful its effects are and how responsible it may be for a seemingly unrelated problem. Foods that you thought were safe for you turn out to be highly problematic, indicating the presence of a previous undiagnosed food sensitivity. As a result, the authors of the Lancetarticle conclude that the prevalence of food sensitivity (referred to in the article as “food intolerance”) has been seriously underestimated.

Certainly, food allergies are far more dramatic. Whenever you read about a kid who died within minutes of eating at a fast-food joint or after breathing in the peanut dust from a friend’s candy wrapper, that’s an “IgE-mediated” food allergy. They’re fast, they can be deadly, and need the attention they deserve.

But we should be looking at delayed reactions, too, the “IgG-mediated” responses to food sensitivities. And some doctors do look seriously at both. Most conventional doctors, though, tend to focus on IgE immediate reactions. There are lots of reasons why they should view the two types of reactions as part of a larger, single problem.

First, both reactions have the same ultimate cause: the immune system’s overreaction to apparently harmless food. According to internationally acclaimed author and physician Kenneth Bock, M.D., there’s also quite a bit of overlap between IgE and IgG symptoms. Both can contribute to inflammatory responses in multiple body systems.

True, the delayed IgG reactions are less likely to cause hives and are more likely to produce a host of apparently vague symptoms, such as headache, brain fog, sleep problems, joint pain, fatigue, and muscle aches. But both the immediate and the delayed responses are immune system problems triggered by a supposedly “harmless” food.

Conventional doctors’ tendency to separate “IgE-mediated” food allergies and “IgG-mediated” food sensitivities into two separate problems has the effect of minimizing the allergy epidemic. Remember, IgE allergies, IgG sensitivities, and asthma—three similar ways that our immune systems can overreact—are all on the rise. It makes sense to find a doctor who is willing to address all three as symptoms of a greater underlying issue.

Common Symptoms of Food Sensitivity: Delayed Reactions

  • fatigue
  • gastrointestinal problems, including bloating and gas
  • itchy skin and skin rashes like eczema
  • brain fog
  • muscle or joint aches
  • headache
  • sleeplessness and sleep disorders
  • chronic rhinitis (runny nose), congestion, and post-nasal drip

Four Take-Aways:

1. Even if your kids can’t talk, their skin speaks volumes! Did you know that the skin is a person’s largest organ? Even when your child is too young to tell you how he feels or too used to her symptoms to identify them (when kids hurt all the time, they don’t know they hurt!), you can often read your child’s condition in his or her skin.

Does your child have eczema? Does he get rashes around the mouth, especially after he eats a certain food or swallows a certain beverage? Rashes around the knees, elbows, or armpits? Does he have “allergic shiners”—that is, dark circles under the eyes?

These are all inflammatory reactions, signs that the body is trying to rid itself of what it perceives as “toxic invader.” In your child’s case, that “toxic invader” might be an apparently harmless food, to which your kid is either allergic or “sensitive.” Keeping that invader away from your kid may bring relief from symptoms—and it may clear up other problems, such as brain fog, crankiness, sleep problems, inattention, acne, and mood swings.

2. The toilet bowl has a lot to tell you. Your kids’ bowel movements, not to be too delicate here, also speak volumes. Runny poops are a sign that a person isn’t properly digesting his food. And indeed, as we got the allergens out of some children’s diets, poops tend to firm up.

3. Chronic ear infections are often a sign of dairy allergies. In some cases, milk may have ill effects like eczema, upset stomachs or chronic ear infections for children who are allergic or sensitive to it.

4. Find a doctor who is willing to work with you, test for both IgE and IgG allergies and sensitivities and to address the important role that elimination diets can play in managing allergic symptoms like eczema, ear infections and chronic mucous.

AllergyKids turned eight this weekend over Mother’s Day. In these first eight years, we’ve met too many parents who have lost children to an allergic reaction. We’ve spent so much time with a dad who lost his 13 year old daughter to a food allergic reaction eight years ago. He was one of the first emails we ever received at the AllergyKids Foundation.

His daughter had eaten what they considered a “safe food.” Something she had eaten dozens of times before. For some inexplicable reason that day, it proved deadly.

We can not afford to lose our children, they are our country’s greatest resource.

Follow Robyn on Twitter @foodawakenings and on Facebook. She is a former financial analyst and author. This post is dedicated to Emily V. and all of the children whose lives were taken too soon, as well as to the parents of children with food allergies whose love, courage and dedication protects these children every day.

Additional Resources:

Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma and Allergies by Dr. Kenneth Bock
Eat to Live; Disease Proof Your Child by Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Note: Always discuss individual health inquiries and medical issues with a qualified personal physician and/or specialist. Robyn O’Brien, the founder and Executive Director of the AllergyKids Foundation, is an author and analyst but not responsible for medical decisions made by any one person. The professionals who share their knowledge, discussions, minutes, handouts, agendas, and other products do not constitute medical and/or legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always discuss individual health inquiries and medical issues with a qualified personal physician and/or specialist.