A Canadian girl was rushed to the hospital after a severe allergic reaction triggered while eating blueberry pie. After an investigation into the pie’s ingredients, medical experts found she was not allergic to any of the ingredients, and even though the girl had a known milk allergy, the pie contained no milk.
After an in-depth investigation breaking down ingredients further, doctors on the case found the patient was allergic to streptomycin, an antibiotic used as a pesticide on fruit.
This is not the first reported case of allergic reactions as a result of antibiotic residue in food; though reports of this health complication are considered rare other cases linked to antibiotics in food such as milk and beef have been documented.
“This is a very rare allergic reaction” Dr. James Sublett, president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, said in a statement. “Nevertheless, it’s something allergists need to be aware of and that emergency room personnel may need to know about.”
A report from Live Science indicates antibiotic reactions due to food are probably under diagnosed not only because the public rarely considers the dangers, but also because doctors and allergists don’t always think to look at substances as hidden as antibiotics in food-related cases.
During the last decade the U.S. government has taken strides to eliminate the use of antibiotics in food, not necessarily to limit allergic reactions, but to help cut down on antibiotic resistance. The more humans and animals are exposed to antibiotics, the less effective those medications area against potentially dangerous pathogens.
“Antimicrobial resistance is one of our most serious health threats,” indicates the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “Infections from resistant bacteria are now too common, and some pathogens have even become resistant to multiple types or classes of antibiotics (antimicrobials used to treat bacterial infections). Antibiotic-resistant infections can also come from the food we eat.”
For years, animals were given antibiotics to help them grow faster, but eventually experts realized the administration of these medications had unwanted side-effects. While the animals seemed healthier and did experience accelerated growth rates, giving antibiotics resulted in only strains of resistant bacteria surviving. Those bacteria could then be passed on to humans not only through food processing but from animal waste contamination in the soil and water as well.
The same issue exists for fruits treated with antibiotics. According to Beyond Pesticides, bacteria on fruit are sprayed with antibiotics, but due to resistant genes, not all the bacteria are killed. This means, if fruit are not washed properly, people can be ingesting antibiotic-resistant pathogens as well as residue from the antibiotic itself.
And for some people, the antibiotic residue can mean an unexpected trip to the hospital.
Researchers who followed the case of the Canadian girl published the findings in the September issue of the journal “Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.” They indicate the only way to prevent such rare allergic reactions is to have stricter laws regarding the use of antibiotics in food.