Australian scientists may soon develop allergy-free eggs
Eggs. They’re cheap, easily available and a good source of protein. They’re also among the most versatile of ingredients, used in a variety of dishes, both savory and sweet. Eggs are also the most widely eaten foods across the world, considered kosher by the Jews and halal by the Muslims — and even lacto-ovo-vegetarians rely on eggs to meet their protein needs.
But eggs are also the cause of the most common food allergy. About 12 million Americans, 1.2 million Canadians, 17 million Europeans and four million Australians have food allergies — and mostly, this is an allergy to eggs or egg whites. Children are the most affected by these allergic reactions.
Commonly, people who are allergic to eggs suffer from wheezing, nausea, headache, stomachache and itchy hives. But some people can suffer a severe, life-threatening, multi-system allergic reactions called anaphylaxis. Their mouths, throats and the airways leading to the lungs begin to swell, making it difficult for to breathe. Blood pressure drops dangerously, and people could pass out or suffer from shock.
Each year, about 200 people die from food allergic reactions in the United States alone, and the
Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) believes that the actual figures may be much higher since allergic reactions are responsible for almost 50,000 hospital emergency room visits each year.
And those numbers are only of the people who suffer from what doctors call “true food allergies” that make them consistently allergic to some foods. A larger number of children have sporadic allergic reactions to foods — eggs included — at some point. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, three to eight percent of children will have an adverse reaction to food some time in their lives.
What’s worse, preventing these allergic reactions goes beyond simply turning away from the egg stand in the grocery or supermarket. Because eggs are found in hundreds of dishes, people who are allergic to them have to be constantly vigilant — scouring ingredient lists of packaged foods and asking food attendants in restaurants or planes if their dishes have eggs in them. And what happens to children who attend public schools? The circumstances for families of children with allergies can often turn out to be a nightmare.
Because egg proteins are also used as a component of vaccines, a number of children have suffered allergic reactions after being inoculated. Some have been rushed to emergency rooms, and a number of them have even died.