Many confuse allergens and celiac disease

April 9, 2010 at 6:57 PM
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ROCHESTER, N.Y., April 11 (UPI) -- A U.S. survey indicated that many U.S. adults are confused regarding the difference between food allergies and celiac disease.

The telephone survey of 1,013 U.S. adults, conducted by Harris Interactive for HomeFree, makers of organic, whole-grain cookies free of common food allergens, indicates only 3 percent identified all four common food allergens -- nuts, dairy, eggs and wheat. Forty-three percent incorrectly identified gluten as an allergen.

Fifty-four percent say -- correctly -- when someone with a wheat allergy eats a brownie and has a physical reaction, it could be an immediate life-threatening emergency requiring epinephrine, while 57 percent incorrectly say it could be an immediate life-threatening emergency when someone who is not supposed to eat gluten eats a brownie and has a physician reaction.

"People want to be able to serve food safely to other people," Jill Robbins, president and founder of HomeFree, says in a statement. "To do so, it helps to know that people with celiac disease -- an autoimmune disease in which people have sensitivity to gluten, found in foods such as wheat, rye, and barley -- can get sick sometimes even from traces of gluten. If someone with food allergies eats even a trace of a food to which he or she is allergic, it can quickly lead to a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis -- which needs rapid treatment with epinephrine."

Someone who has celiac disease and eats gluten can become extremely uncomfortable. It causes damage to the small intestine and does not allow food to be properly absorbed -- but it is not immediately life threatening and does not need epinephrine treatment, Robbins says.

The survey was conducted Jan. 28-31. No further survey details were provided.

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