© Borgis - New Medicine 3/2010, s. 94-98
*Erzsébet Pálfi, Zoltánné Horváth, Márta Veresné Bálint, Istvánné Németh, Mária Barna
Dietary management of food allergy – different channels of education of patients in hungary
Semmelweis University Faculty of Health Science
Dean: Dr. Judit Meszaros, Phd
Department of Dietetics and Nutrition Science, Budapest, Hungary
Head of Department: Prof. Dr. István Szabolcs
Head: Dr. Mária Barna
Introduction. The prevalence of food allergy is approximately 1-2% in adults and 5-8% in children less than 3 years of age. The allergen avoidance diet is the key treatment of food allergy and it is feasible only with information about food allergen content. In Hungary there are different techniques of conveying information for sensitive consumers.
Aim. The authors aimed to find the most practicable ways of conveying information in food allergy management.
Material and Method. We measured the Hungarian situation with a computer background multi-criteria interview method that took 1.5 ± 0.50 hours. The interview contained 20 pre-defined options that showed the complex situation of food allergy management in Hungary and some viewpoints of their evaluation. We compared the opinions based on criteria developing a comprehensive opinion spectrum. The 30 interviewees were involved from patient organisations, the health care and scientific sector, food companies, the food commerce and public catering area, consumer protection, the media, and the food safety and policy sector.
Results. Allergen information as patients' information on the food labelling is not sufficient and they do not replace dietitian counselling and further patient management by a dietitian. Education of patients was a priority in food allergy management. The Databank is a parallel way for consumers suffering from food allergy to obtain information about "free from” products that supplements the food labelling legislation.
Conclusions. Both the health system and food safety include channels of allergen information from product to patient.
The incidence of self-reported food allergies is between 3 and 35% (1). Diagnosed food allergies affect approximately 1-2% of adults and 5-8% of children in Europe. Egg and milk allergies are the most common in childhood. Allergies to fruits and vegetables are more common in adulthood and peanut allergy is common among children as well as adults. Furthermore, the prevalence of food allergy changes with age (2). There has been a recent increase in the prevalence of atopic reactions (3). Food allergy is an adverse immune reaction to food proteins and its key treatment is the allergen avoidance diet that is based on the correct diagnosis (4, 5). A safe and adequate allergen-free diet is difficult, because the information on allergen content might be unclear (6). Patients suffering from milk allergy might not recognize that casein is an ingredient of cow's milk (7). Additionally, the allergen cross-contamination in industries is unlabelled in much commercial food, e.g. unpackaged or catering food (8). The avoidance diet has an effect on the quality of life of food allergic patients and their family (9). The effects of food allergy are not only limited to individuals suffering allergy. Food allergy management is part of food safety and food legislation. The European Union regulates allergen labelling in the Directive of 2000/13/EC (2003/89/EC modification), which makes labelling major allergens compulsory (10, 11). The current labelling regulations are not sufficient for patients suffering from food allergy, so we have to provide the information about "free from” products in other ways.
The aim of this research was to find the best intervention strategies in the management of food allergy. The authors compared the viewpoints of key stakeholders, in this manner developing a comprehensive and multidisciplinary opinion spectrum.
MATERIAL AND METHOD
A computer-based personal interview method was used for the investigation to provide a comparative analysis of the differing perspectives of stakeholders (12). Thirty interviewees were involved in the current research from the following areas: Hungarian patients' organizations, scientific and health care area, the market sector (food industries, commerce, catering), the consumer protection sector, policy makers and the publicity sector. The interview took 1.5 ± 0.50 hours. The interview subjects showed the complex situation of food allergy management in Hungary and they are selected from the following issues: food regulations, food safety and consumer protection, "free from” food trade, public catering, education of patients and staff of health system, protocol of food allergy diagnosis and treatment. In this paper some of the judgements about food allergen information channels are highlighted.
The computer-based, multi-criteria interview contains 20 pre-defined options and some viewpoints (criteria) of their evaluation. The criteria were the feasibility of interventions, the cost-benefit ratio and the group of food allergic patients concerned. The interviewees ranked the options with a score system (score from 1 to 10), so they developed a score interval. The stakeholders made written commentaries that completed the score system (12). Data were analysed by using variance analysis to determine the changes for all comparisons; a P value of 0.05 was considered significant.
The importance of three criteria was considered identical in each single perspective. All three criteria are important to develop a complex opinion spectrum (fig. 1). The allergen avoidance diet is the treatment of food allergy that will only be achieved with the relevant allergen information. Figure 2 shows the comparison of options of information channels. There are no significant differences between options about food allergen information, education of patients and the Databank (p=0.05), so the options are ranked according to the order of importance (fig. 2). Figure 3 gives an overview about the necessity of options in the issue of allergen information on the grounds of rank of opinion scores and written commentaries of stakeholders (fig. 3).
Fig. 1. The importance of criteria (feasibility, cost-benefit ratio and the group of patients concerned) based on the opinion of different stakeholders (n=30; p=0.05).
Fig. 2. Comparison of options of education techniques (p=0.05). The stakeholders developed a pessimistic (negative) and an optimistic (positive) score (score of 1-10) based on each viewpoint.
Fig. 3. Rank means given by different stakeholder groups' range for options of allergen information. A score interval from pessimistic (score 1) to optimistic (score 10) opinion was developed. Stakeholder groups: A – patient organisations; B – health care and scientific sector; C – market sector; D – consumer protection; E – policy makers; F – publicity.
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