Pret a Manger case likely to force change in UK allergen labelling law

Natasha Ednan-Laperouse was just 15 when she died as a result of a severe allergic reaction to sesame seeds hidden in a baguette bought from global food chain Pret a Manger. It was revealed during the inquest that the baguette did not have any allergen advice on its wrapper due to a loophole in the law. Currently allergen labelling laws allow for general in store warnings to be posted where food is made ‘in store’, rather than appearing on the label of the item as with manufactured, barcoded products. The number of people experiencing food allergies has risen extensively in recent years along with the rise in consumption of processed and ultra-processed foods and an over-reliance on antibiotics and other drugs. Pret is now committing to making changes to the way it displays allergen information in store. However, Natasha was not the first person to suffer severe anaphylaxis from eating food at Pret, in fact the company knew about 9 cases of sesame allergen reaction in the year before Natasha’s death, and six that involved baguettes. Yet Pret still made no changes until Natasha’s death. As a result the UK Government is now urgently reviewing food labelling laws and citizens have taken it into their own hands to petition for changes in allergen labelling .

The depressing truth about antidepressants

Anti-depressants are handed out like sweets these days with the inference that their ‘miracle powers’ can treat all manner of conditions, whether on label or off label. Once started, under their powerful grip, many find them hard to quit as the reality of addiction looms. A new systematic review undertaken in conjunction with the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence underlines the withdrawal effects suffered by those trying to quit their meds. Nearly half were found to experience withdrawal effects, with around half of those describing the effects as severe and suffering withdrawal effects lasting several weeks or months. The ANH-Intl 'blueprint for health system sustainability' will soon reveal an approach to health care that is a far cry from ‘the pill for an ill’ drug-based culture and is focused instead on myriad ways of health creation and disease prevention. It's all about health regeneration not disease and symptom management.

Traditional diets better for children’s health

More and more countries around the world are moving away from their traditional diets to adopt modern Western diets — all too often it’s the Standard American Diet (SAD). According to a study from Japan’s Kyushu University this is impacting the health of children’s gut microbiota in Thailand. The gut microbiota of children living in 17 urban and 28 rural areas were compared, along with their diets. Researchers found a significantly lower bacterial diversity in urban children eating a more western diet. The researchers say the study shows the benefits of a diet rich in vegetables on the health of the children and their gut microbiota. This is why the ANH-Intl Food4Health guidelines recommend a largely plant-based diet that will feed your gut bacteria – what’s good for your gut is good for you!

Breakthrough: will coeliacs soon be able to eat gluten containing foods?

Coeliac disease is a serious autoimmune condition that can occur in genetically-predisposed individuals caused by the consumption of gluten – a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt and barley. The only effective treatment is to avoid gluten containing foods for life. Scientists are looking at ways to treat coeliac disease by targeting the immune system, but as always, this comes at a significant health cost when considering the potential for side-effects. New research attempts to ‘neutralise’ the prolamins in the gluten protein by attaching novel single chain Fragment variables (scFv) to them to prevent the molecules crossing the gut epithelial barrier and ‘hide’ them from the immune system in order to suppress the classic coeliac reaction. The novel technology requires the reprogramming of bacteria to produce new antibody fragments to these scFvs – somewhat reminiscent of GMO technology. The researchers hope that the new product will be able to be taken alongside gluten-containing foods by coeliac patients and that it will alleviate the classic symptoms associated with gluten consumption. It is not known however, whether symptoms will disappear, be just temporarily alleviated or even if the process and resulting product will be safe in the long term. Given that many foods that contain gluten are also highly processed, ANH recommends focusing on the wide-range of naturally gluten-free foods that are safe and beneficial, not only for coeliacs but also the 20% or more of the population with some degree of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Check out our Food4Health guidelines for more information.

Artificial sweeteners harm gut bacteria

Governments around the world are implementing the sugar tax in an effort to combat the spiraling obesity epidemic. This has resulted in food manufacturers reformulating products by substituting sugar (sucrose) with artificial sweeteners. Whilst this approach is lauded as great progress in the fight against obesity, we hate to say ‘we told you so’. A new study has found that six artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, neotame, advantame and acesulfame potassium) are toxic to the microbes in our gut, even at low concentrations. This is in addition to artificial sweeteners having already been linked to adverse health effects such as cancer, weight gain, metabolic disorder, type 2 diabetes and the very thing they’re ‘designed’ to prevent – obesity. Rather than swapping sugar-laden foods for artificially sweetened versions, do your gut a favour and adopt a natural, nutrient dense, wholefood, largely plant-based diet.