As the pandemic remains ongoing in 2021, we are committed to educating, supporting, and advocating for Canadians at risk of anaphylaxis to ensure they continue to be well informed, can make educated choices, and have a voice with Health Canada and others.
Learn how we have addressed pandemic specific issues below.
Anaphylaxis treatment during the pandemic
Access to experts and credible guidance
Early in the pandemic, there were fears about contracting the virus in emergency departments (EDs). This had implications for Canadians with food allergy as the standard emergency protocol for treating anaphylaxis is the use of epinephrine, followed by a trip to the ED.
We immediately sought direction from medical experts to share with the community. They advised on the possibility of temporarily changing the protocol if symptoms of anaphylaxis resolved early enough. We also shared important resources to help prepare if an ED visit was required.
In addition, we worked with leading researchers to understand anaphylaxis management during the pandemic to inform potential changes to the emergency protocols in the future.
Helping to prevent food allergy in unprecedented times
Equipping families with critical knowledge
Parents of newborns and healthcare professionals raised questions about the early introduction of allergenic foods to babies during the pandemic. The possibility of an allergic reaction and emergency department visit increased hesitancy to introduce allergenic foods, even though it can help prevent the development of food allergy.
To address these concerns, we hosted a webinar with two of the co-authors of the Canadian Paediatric Society’s guidance on food allergy prevention. By the end of the session, 94% of participants said they would follow the early introduction guidance.
Access to accurate ingredient information
Ensuring every Canadian knows what’s in their food
We were made aware that online pre-packaged food products had ingredient statements that did not consistently match the package received. We raised awareness of this issue to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and food retailers. We also educated the community on being diligent when buying groceries online and made them aware of the possible risks.
By initiating the conversation with key stakeholders and regulators, we continue to advocate for change to ensure access to accurate ingredient information, regardless of how food products are purchased now and longer term.
Equipping restaurants to welcome back guests with food allergy
Increasing food options for the community
To help our partners in the foodservice and restaurant industry be well prepared to continue to serve those with food allergy, both in-house and through take-out/delivery services, we created a new resource: “Serving guests with food allergy during COVID-19”.
This resource provides useful and practical recommendations for foodservice operators and will help Canadians with food allergy have more food options.
Promoting inclusivity in public places
Helping all Canadians stay healthy
After learning that a priority food allergen was an ingredient in a hand sanitizer used in public places across the country, we reached out to Health Canada on behalf of our community.
Although having an anaphylactic reaction to hand sanitizers containing food allergens is considered to be unlikely, research studies have shown exposure through the skin can create a localized skin reaction. We requested that manufacturers avoid using priority food allergens in their hand sanitizer products to remove this worry for the community and to ensure inclusivity. As a result, the government updated their guidance to include this recommendation, noting that it is particularly important for products that all Canadians will use in public.
Increasing confidence in the safety of COVID-19 vaccines
Supporting public health efforts
We have held ongoing discussions with Health Canada on COVID-19 vaccines and the safety for those who have food allergy and are at risk of anaphylaxis.
In December 2020, British regulators advised that those at risk of anaphylaxis should not take the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. This prompted us to seek clarity from Health Canada on vaccine safety, which led to the government posting a statement on the safety of the vaccine for Canadians with food allergy.
We also assembled a panel of experts from Health Canada, allergy, and infectious disease for a webinar series on COVID-19 vaccines and food allergy. These sessions helped to inform Canadians and increase their confidence in the safety of the vaccines.
In case of anaphylaxis to the vaccines, we requested Health Canada reinforce the availability of epinephrine auto-injectors at COVID-19 vaccination clinics.