'Not enough specialists in allergies' BRITAIN.
A NETWORK of specialised centres is necessary to tackle the "allergy epidemic" in the UK, an influential House of Lords committee recommended yesterday.
The peers also said pregnant women should be allowed to eat peanuts as current government advice to avoid the food was not only failing to prevent peanut allergy but "may even be counterproductive".
The committee recommended an overhaul of food labelling regulations to improve on "vague and defensive" information such as "may contain nuts".
The Science and Technology Committee's report said allergies cost the NHS in England pounds 1bn a year for medication and treatment.
The committee also heard that the cost to the UK economy of asthma is pounds 2.3bn a year.
Crossbencher Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, who chaired the sub-committee which produced the report, said there had been a rapid growth in the amount of people suffering from allergies.
She said: "This phenomenon is not unique to the United Kingdom. Many developed countries in the Western world have seen a rapid increase inthe prevalence of allergic disorders in the last half century, coupled with an increasing severity and complexity of these diseases."
Baroness Finlay said the cause of the increase was probably down to a "multitude of genetic and environmental factors" and called for increased funding for research.
The baroness said the committee was "extremely alarmed" about Department of Health guidance given to pregnant mothers to avoid peanuts.
In parts of the developing world where ground nuts were used in a "soup" for weaning youngsters there had not been the explosion in the number of people allergic to peanuts, she said.
Baroness Finlay told reporters: "Academics and clinicians have told us that a growing body of evidence has suggested this guidance may not only be failing to prevent peanut allergy, but might possibly even be counterproductive.
The baroness said the committee heard "time and time again ... that there are simply not enough allergy specialists in the UK". The committee proposed creating new allergy centres in every Strategic Health Authorities.