Response to Food Allergies in the New York Times

The last few days have a been a whirlwind of emotions for the food allergy community. First there was the article in the New York Times called The Allergy Buster as well as a Q&A with the author and food allergy mom on the New York Times blog. In the aftermath of The Allergy Buster's publication, there have been some very thoughtful responses in the on-line discussions, in particular from three of my colleagues.

Dr Jennifer Kim of Mount Sinai Jaffe Food Allergy Institute wrote a response and you can read it on the Jaffe Facebook page. An excerpt: "RE: 'mortality rate is estimated at roughly 1 in 1,000' This is not an evidence-based statistic and was a guess for a specific and highly sensitive patient. We don't have good statistics in truth about fatal food anaphylaxis but registries suggest it is much, much less than the frequently touted 100-200 per year."

Dr Michael Pistiner of, with whom I conducted an online Webinar last week for Kids with Food Allergies, wrote a response and you can read what he had to say on the Facebook page. An excerpt: "There have recently been talk shows and news stories that are emotionally powerful, discuss the challenges of having a food allergy and present a new 'treatment'. Again, these experimental protocols have exciting potential but are experimental and there is still much to learn."

Dr Wayne Shreffler of the Food Allergy Center at MGH (their Facebook page is here) wrote a formal response. An excerpt: "While food immunotherapy is a promising research treatment, it is still burdensome and risk-laden for patients. The anecdotal reporting of outcomes in these two safety studies, encouraging as they may be, removes them from the larger research context. Currently available data from the small but growing number of studies specifically designed to
evaluate the lasting  efficacy of food immunotherapy remain inconclusive and point to the need for more work."
You can read the full response here.

All of this to say is that I know many of you were excited by the The Allergy Buster article and the promise it seems to hold and then felt dashed by these responses as well as more stories coming out of the American Academy of Asthma Allergy and Immunology annual meeting, like the one on milk oral immunotherapy treatment wherein "...three to five years after completing an OIT study, Johns Hopkins University researchers said that many participants were more reactive to cow’s milk than they had been early in the course of treatment." (Read more here Allergic Living’s article).

Bottom line still is, as of right now, there is no cure for food allergies.

What we do know is that food allergies are real and serious as is the risk for anaphylaxis

What can arm ourselves by having:
  • Clarity about a food allergy diagnosis
  • Avoiding the allergen[s]
  • Understanding and having a anaphylaxis action plan (Here's an example from
  • Access at all times to emergency medication, including two epinephrine autoinjectors


Diane said…
Interested parties are encouraged to read the joint response from Melanie Thernstrom and the SAFAR Community Council to claims of alleged inaccuracies in the recent New York Times Magazine article featuring SAFAR. The SAFAR Community Council and Ms. Thernstrom stand behind the SAFAR families profiled, and the facts included in the article. For more information, the alleged distortions are answered point-by-point in the response.
Unknown said…
Thank you for shedding light on what so many people have been excited to talk to me about lately. Although I still hold hope that they will someday find a cure, there still is no cure for food allergies.

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