I’m getting in a post for Food Allergy Awareness Week just under the wire, which I guess turns out OK because it’s now been expanded into Food Allergy Awareness Month. Fitting, because this is such an important topic.

I’m not going to say a lot (because my next On Nutrition column will be about food allergies), but what I do want to say, and say empathetically, is that for every person who tells their waiter that they are allergic to parsley simply because they really, really hate parsley, there is another for whom ingesting a mere molecule of peanut or other food allergen could be fatal. And that person could be a child.
To say that food allergies are deadly serious is both incredibly accurate and a whopping understatement. Anyone living with a food allergy, or with a child who has a food allergy has to be hypervigilant 24-7, with an EpiPen always at the ready. Some children will outgrow their food allergies, but some children and adults never will. Which makes it all the more tragic that there is not a lot of research coming down the pipeline that offers hope of relief. 
Of course, not a lot doesn’t mean none. One potentially exiting area of research involves carefully desensitizing food allergy sufferers to the foods that cause their allergic reactions. On the local front, the Seattle Food Allergy Consortium (SeaFAC), which includes doctors from area hospitals and clinical research centers, has started the VIPES study to test whether the Viaskin Peanut patch (a transdermal patch containing peanut protein) can effectively desensitize peanut allergy sufferers.
The 12-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled* trial has completed enrollment, but SeaFAC is planning to open enrollment for an oral desensitization trial late this spring, with the study scheduled to start by the end of the summer. For preliminary info check out the study page on ClinicalTrials.gov. For this study, SeaFAC is partnering with Dr. Kari Nadeau of Stanford School of Medicine, who is a pioneer in this area.
Read more about Dr. Nadeau and her research in the March 7, 2013 New York Times Magazine article “Can a radical new treatment save children with severe food allergies?” 
Two more article links:
I’m sure this goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: Attempting to desensitize someone with a food allergy is only something that should be attempted under expert clinical supervision, as with these studies. If you don’t believe me, please read this letter that Dr. Nadeau wrote to The New York Times.

* This means that enrollees will be either given the real patch or a placebo patch (placebo-controlled), and neither the enrollees or the researchers will know who got what until the data has been collected (double-blind). This helps assure that the results, whatever they turn out to be, are valid.