Law change aims to speed food allergy recalls

In a law change coming into effect on 1 November 2018, Victorian hospitals will be required to notify the Department of Health and Human Services of all anaphylaxis presentations. This follows recommendations of the coroner who investigated the 2013 death of 10-year old Melbourne boy Ronak Warty as a result of consuming an imported coconut drink containing undisclosed milk proteins that he was allergic to.

The lodgement of anaphylaxis notifications by hospitals will enable the department to look into cases where a public health response is required, for example, in a case where a packaged food is not labelled correctly. Throughout 2016 –17, a total of 2,445 people were reported as presenting to Victorian hospital emergency departments with anaphylaxis. Food-related anaphylaxis accounted for nearly half of these presentations.

In the case of Ronak Warty, the treating hospital was not required to, and did not, notify the department of the likely cause of the fatal anaphylactic reaction. As a result, the coconut drink product remained in the marketplace for six weeks before being recalled from shelves.

Safer Care Victoria sought input from key stakeholders prior to the amendment, issuing discussion papers that are available here.  Requirements for the manner, details and period of the notifications are still under development.

Data collected through the notification scheme will not only support the department in preventing the possibility of a serious danger to public health, but will also enable the department to better understand the burden of anaphylaxis in Victoria and to inform public health policy, interventions and research.

Additional information about the new anaphylaxis notification requirements are available from the Department of Health and Human Services.