More steps in place to prevent food allergy tragedies

Four years after the death of 10-year old Melbourne boy Ronak Warty, the Victorian government has introduced a bill that will require all hospitals to report all suspected cases of anaphylaxis to the Department of Health and Human Services. Once notified, the Department will be able to take appropriate action, such as the recall of products that are not labelled correctly.

Ronak Warty died a few days before Christmas in 2013 after consuming a coconut drink bought from an Asian supermarket in Burwood East. It was later discovered the beverage contained undeclared dairy milk. Because the hospital that treated Ronak did not alert the health department, the incorrectly labelled product remained on the shelves for another six weeks before being recalled. Authorities were only made aware of the problem with the imported coconut drink in 2014 when contacted by consumer support group Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia.

More than 320 people have died in Australia from anaphylaxis since 1997 and while medication and insect bites have typically posed the biggest danger, the number of people reacting to food such as nuts, dairy, eggs and seafood has been on the rise since the early ’90s. Now, almost half of the anaphylaxis presentations at Victorian emergency departments are food-related, a figure that has rapidly increased by around 14 per cent each year.

In light of this dramatic rise in incidence, and the potentially tragic consequences of incorrectly labelled foodstuffs remaining on supermarket shelves, the coroner investigating Ronak’s death recommended in June 2016 that legislative changes be brought in to prevent similar tragedies. The proposed new anaphylaxis reporting laws are set to be in place by November 2018.

See The Age for the full media report.