__ New Hampshire health officials are investigating whether food allergies are linked to about 40 cases of children with autism, and one person is dying. Here’s why: Last year the state of New Jersey issued a public health warning that people with food allergies are more often likely to get sick and die from eating peanut-based food because it can trigger an immune reaction that can cause diarrhea, vomiting and a severe runny nose. A growing chorus of scientists has raised concerns about the possibility that food allergies may increase the risk of foodborne illness in children because they may be more prone to react when eating foods that are not normally considered safe by the immune system. Last week, a study by the Institute of Medicine reported that even a single protein in the food or formula used to feed infants could be responsible for triggering an immune response that can lead to life-threatening food allergies among infants. But other medical groups have reached the opposite conclusion. But many people, including those who believe an increasing number of children with autism need more specialist attention, don’t want to hear it. The reaction began when scientists began scrutinizing the medical records and tests of children who died after a peanut overdose. An FDA official with a close relationship with the family had taken over a large food allergy case from the New Jersey police. “He was a key witness,” said Dr. Peter Pucher, an immunologist at Children’s Hospital Boston and a former director of infectious diseases in New Jersey. “He came across as somebody who wasn’t looking at this very well.” On March 31, David Hechler suffered from peanut allergies and collapsed at his home in Boston while talking about the dangers of the peanut epidemic. Authorities eventually ruled that an accidental overdose of peanut butter had triggered Hechler’s sudden death. The death was ruled a suicide but the incident sparked a public health emergency. Pucher’s investigation led him to the same conclusion: The public health community will have to accept that more children with autism could die if there is still a lot of debate about the idea of adding more people to the autism program. The idea of bringing in doctors and other specialists to manage their illnesses is a common one. But that’s not something many of the parents of children with autism agree on. “Maybe there’s too much emphasis on having professionals do it,” said Susan, who did not want to give her last name. She thinks that adding more specialists could turn this case from deadly to less so. “I want to believe in science, that the world is not going to end someday if we just take a couple years,” Susan says. “We may not have much time to try to find out the long term consequences of other people’s behaviors and behaviors of our own children.” Dr. Suzanne Goldenberg, chairwoman of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, says the new study’s results should be put to bed by scientists who believe that autism is not a “one size fits all” diagnosis. “It’s not something that you get to decide on,” she adds. “If parents want to add it, they’re welcome to, “But I think people need to stop thinking they can just add more ‘specialists’ who are not qualified to do it.”
“There aren’t a lot of vaccines for peanut allergies,” Suzanne says, “and the incidence on peanut allergies is actually extremely high among very young children.”
The article notes that the study (emphasis added):
An official in New Jersey’s health department says they found 40 children with autism in a database with nearly 40,000 other children. They found 1 out of every 80 children was found to have a food allergy, and that one person has died as a result.
The piece also writes that the “specialist” who was not a medical doctor but was part of a medical team is in charge of “food-illness cases” for the police who investigate the deaths:
But in this case, an expert in nutrition with a close relationship to the family was consulted. According to a medical officer with knowledge of the case, the family initially requested one doctor, but when that doctor, whose name was not released, balked at doing the work, the family called in a second expert. That “specialist” is Dr. Peter Pucher, the former head of the Indiana State Department of Public Health. A spokeswoman for the Indiana Health Department said Pucher could not comment on the case, citing HIPPA privacy laws, but the spokesman said Indiana uses a consultant for every case involving a child who might be autistic. “What I can tell you is the child was evaluated by our clinical nutritionist,” the spokeswoman told ABCNews.com. “When it comes to peanut allergies, there is a big difference between a child who has it and a toddler or a teenager who may be affected. When it comes to peanut allergies, there is such a tremendous variability of children that all types of allergens have a wide range of severity and can affect a person’s health. “The