RIYADH – The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) said food allergy shall be treated by avoiding ingredients that cause it, according to international statistics.

SFDA out that a person visits the emergency room every three minutes due to a food allergy. It said one of the national studies conducted by the National Nutrition Committee at the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA), in cooperation with Taibah University, indicates that 21% of the Saudi population suffer from a food allergy, and the symptoms range from mild to severe, which may lead to death.

Food allergy is defined as an immune system response to certain types of food. Consumption of a certain food item can trigger an unusual immune response, caused by immunoglobulin E antibody. The body’s immune system mistakenly treats proteins found in food as a threat.

While food allergies are quite common, they can also be life-threatening when these involve respiratory or cardiovascular distress. Although it is possible for any food to cause an allergy, there are some common ones like shellfish and nut allergies in adults, and milk, eggs, fish, peanuts and other nuts in children.

SFDA advises food allergy sufferers, when ordering food or eating outside the home, to inform the service provider about the type of food they are allergic to, as the effective treatment available for food allergy is to avoid allergenic ingredients.

Symptoms of food allergy differ from person to person. The common symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, sneezing or coughing, fainting, difficulty breathing, stomach pain, and skin rashes. There are also allergens that enter the body through inhalation, touch, or ingestion.

To promote public health and protect individuals with food allergies, SFDA launched “The Regulatory Guide for Creating Appropriate Menus for Food Allergic People” initiative. This initiative is concerned with providing food menus free of eggs, gluten and other allergenic ingredients.

This initiative, which targets owners of food facilities and online food ordering platforms, seeks to promote public health and improve the quality of life, facilitate individuals’ access to food suitable for their health condition, provide appropriate food, and create a multi-restaurant environment suitable for individuals with food allergies, moreover, reducing the incidence of food symptoms and the consequences resulting from them when eating outside the home or ordering food through online platforms.

The SFDA is currently implementing an awareness campaign entitled “What suits you may not suit me” to raise of food allergy, the ingredients awareness that cause it, its symptoms, allergens, and the most prominent advice on that.

The most important advice for parents in case a child suffers from a food allergy; tell the child about food ingredients he is allergic to, get him used to reading the ingredients label on food packages, or ask food providers about ingredients in a food item before eating it.

It is also advisable to inform the person responsible about a child’s condition in schools and during events and trips. It is preferable to wear a bracelet or a plastic card with all the details of food allergy during travel in the language of the country the individual is traveling to. – SPA

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