Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff, Executive Director/CEO, Healthy Child Healthy World:
This week, it's all about food. A study released by Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine found that childhood food allergies are twice as common as experts previously thought, with one in 13 kids affected, WebMD reported.
The survey of 38,000 was the largest ever to track childhood food allergies in the United States, and found that eight percent of kids under 18 are allergic to at least one food, with peanuts, milk and shellfish as the top three offenders. Previous studies, including a government survey published in 2009, had estimated four percent. Many food allergies are mild, but this new study found that 40% of children had experienced severe, potentially life-threatening reactions.
Why are these childhood staples now considered poisonous to so many?
Some are pointing fingers at new introductions of genetically modified organisms. Doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec are set to publish a study in the peer reviewed journal Reproductive Toxicology that found pesticides associated with Genetically Modified (GM) crops in the blood of women, as well as pregnant women, their placentas and their infants. In their coverage of the study, Food Consumer referenced an article in the UK's Daily Mail reporting that organizations in England and New Zealand are now calling for a halt to the growth of GM crops until more investigations can take place.
This type of investigation is exactly what Healthy Child Healthy World Parent Ambassador Robyn O'Brien has been calling for since she founded Allergy Kids in 2010, after one of her four kids experienced a life-threatening food allergy reaction.
Robyn's theory, which she espoused in the YouTube sensation that is her Austin TedX talk-viewed by nearly 200,000 people-as well at a private luncheon hosted by Stonyfield Farm, which I was lucky enough to attend last week, is that the dramatic rises in allergy rates that we've seen over the past few years are the direct result of the dramatic increase in the genetically modified organisms that the food industry is now using to grow crops.
Our kids may not be allergic to food. They may be allergic to what's in the food.
Today, nearly 75 percent of the food on your grocer's shelves contains genetically modified ingredients, yet manufacturers are not required to label them as such. Since the introduction of genetically engineered foods in the 1990s, there has been a 265 percent increase in the rates of hospitalizations due to food-related allergic reactions, according to the Huffington Post's Jennifer Grayson.
What can you do to protect your kids? Healthy Child Healthy World's 5 Easy Steps recommends choosing organic foods whenever possible; by law, organic foods must be made without genetically modified ingredients (as well as pesticides and insecticides). Then take it a step further and sign the Allergy Kids petition to force U.S. manufacturers to disclose GM ingredients in their foods so that Americans can make an informed choice about the foods we feed our families.
"They may be only 30 percent of the population," Robyn said, "but they're 100 percent of our future."
I couldn't agree with her more.