University of Chicago to Research Food Allergy Triggers
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded a $433,100 grant to the University of Chicago to investigate how allergic reactions to food are initiated, according to a July 23 press release.
The research is expected to lead to improved methods to assess whether pesticides produced in genetically engineered plants can trigger food allergies, which affect more than 11 million Americans each year. The study is funded through EPA's Science to Achieve Results program.
"There is a shortage of information on how food allergies develop, what causes the allergic reaction, and how to prevent them," said Lek Kadeli, acting assistant administrator for the Office of Research and Development. "This study will bring us closer to identifying key immune factors that lead to food allergies, which affect approximately 3 million children in the United States."
The University of Chicago, in conjunction with Northwestern University, will work to determine why specific antibodies start reacting to foods and allergens when they are eaten. Understanding this process will help determine how food can trigger an allergic response and could help predict the potential for people to develop allergies to new genetically engineered foods. With better understanding of how foods trigger allergic responses, scientists will be equipped to develop new tests for adverse effects from these foods and interpret data from toxicity tests required by regulation.
Each year, food allergies instigate more than 30,000 emergency room visits, and in rare cases can lead to death. The number of allergy-related incidences in the United States doubled between 1997 and 2002.
EPA regulates the use of all pesticides in the United States, establishes acceptable levels for pesticide residues in food, and evaluates human health and ecological risks under authority of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
For more information on the study, go to http://www.epa.gov/ncer/uchicago/foodallergy/.