Media Release

17/05/2012
Food dangers in focus
The humble kiwi fruit, banana, coconut, chicken, mustard and celery could present a serious danger to people who may not know they are allergic to these common household foods.

First published 17 May 2012

The humble kiwi fruit, banana, coconut, chicken, mustard and celery could present a serious danger to people who may not know they are allergic to these common household foods.

Food allergies are in focus this week during the national Food Allergy Awareness Week and a James Cook University researcher is urging North Queensland residents to be more aware of what foods can cause a potentially life-threatening situation.

The event, being held from May 14-18, is an initiative of Anaphylaxis Australia and helps promotes awareness of the disease through education, research and ongoing support, and a general awareness of food allergy.

Associate Professor Andreas Lopata, from the Comparative Genomic Center at JCU, said in Australia there was a lack of appreciation of the impact of allergic disorders on quality of life, and even less of the economic impact to society and individuals who suffer allergic disease.

Associate Professor Andreas Lopata said food allergies were often overlooked, while other diseases traditionally had more exposure in terms of public information.

“Cancer and diabetes warnings are highlighted with their own special ‘days’ or ‘weeks’, but food allergies should also be in the spotlight,” he said.

“I don’t think most people know that eight percent of Australians, including adults and children, have a food allergy. They need to be aware that this is a life-threatening condition.”

Associate Professor Lopata said JCU was on the forefront of research in Australia to combat allergies.

“Novel diagnostics are developed in my laboratory using Queensland’s and the Great Barrier Reef’s unique biodiversity. These rich natural resources give us the opportunity to develop novel therapeutics for food allergy, with a specific focus on seafood.”

A food allergy is an immune system response to a food protein that the body mistakenly believes is harmful. When a person eats food containing that protein, the immune system releases massive amounts of chemicals, triggering symptoms that can affect a person’s breathing, gastrointestinal tract, skin or heart.

For more information, visit Anaphylaxis Australia (http://www.foodallergyaware.com.au/)

For interviews/photos, contact: Associate Professor Andreas Lopata (07) 4781 4563, or andreas.lopata@jcu.edu.au

JCU Media contact: Caroline Kaurila (07) 4781 4586 or 0437 028 175.