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It's World Allergy Week and the focus is on food allergies

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Did you know there is an organization of physicians from around the world that collaborate on allergy research and education? The World Allergy Organization (WAO) is just that. In fact, 93 regional and national allergology and clinical immunology societies from around the world participate and memberships are found in about 100 countries in the world.

Many countries make up the Board of Directors. The United States has a strong presence with five representatives on the board. They include past president Richard Lockey whom hails from the University of South Florida's College of Medicine. President-Elect Lanny Rossenwasser whom serves as the Dee Lyons/Missouri Chair in Pediatric Immunology Research from Kansas City, MO. Additionally, Michael Blaiss from TN, Hugh Sampson from NY, and Dana Wallace from FL are the other United States representatives on the board. The current standing President is Ruby Pawankar from Tokyo, Japan.

World Allergy Week is an annual initiative of the World Allergy Organization (WAO), together with its Member Societies, to raise awareness of allergic disease and related disorders and advocate for the provision of training and resources in the diagnosis, management, and prevention of these diseases and asthma, which are rising in prevalence around the world.

The focus of World Allergy Week this year is to emphasize the need for food labeling and standardized action plans to help those with food allergies.

Large areas in the world lack legislation on food labeling, standardized national anaphylaxis action plans for food allergy, or access to adrenaline autoinjectors. These circumstances can be improved with the distribution of information and resources for physicians, patients, parents, schools, health ministries, and throughout communities and by a call to action to policy makers, stated Ruby Pawankar, acting WAO President.

The United States is addressing food allergies better each year. However, we definitely have a long way to go. In fact, our northern neighbor, Canada, has more food allergy policies in schools and food allergy programs than you will see at this time in the States. Laws around food labeling are getting better in the U.S., but still have much room for improvement since allergen warning labels are still voluntary here. Additionally, traveling can be a hazard for those with severe food allergies since countries around the world have very different labeling laws for their packaged food. The World Allergy Organization is taking the first steps to address these concerns. They just need us to support their efforts.

What you can do

Act by contacting your local congressman about making it mandatory for companies to label their products with an allergen warning if one of the top 8 allergens are used in the facility or on lines with the product. Currently, this is an optional label.

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