Fairfield, N.J., police vehicles to carry Epi-Pens

Those suffering from severe allergies in a New Jersey town can rest a bit easier.

The Fairfield, N.J., police department recently announced they will begin carrying Epi-Pens in their police vehicles. The devices are used to treat severe, life-threatening allergic reactions.

The Fairfield police department is one of only six departments in New Jersey so far that carry the pens, according to a statement.

“In Fairfield, we constantly strive to find ways to better serve the public and with the introduction of the Epi-Pens in our police vehicles, we have done just that,” Fairfield Police Chief Charles Voelker said in a statement. “When seconds count, having Epi-Pens immediately available to our officers will invariably save lives.”

Why is this such a big deal? The answer’s easy – it could save someone’s life. Those who suffer from severe allergies, such as food allergies to peanut or milk, can experience life-threatening reactions when exposed to allergenic proteins.

When an allergic person comes into contact with the allergenic protein, their body releases certain chemicals which can cause swelling in the nose and throat, among other symptoms.  Severe swelling of the nose and throat is called anaphylaxis and can be fatal if not treated quickly.

Enter the Epi-Pens, which contain epinephrine (a.k.a. adrenaline). When a person who is having a severe reaction is injected with the pen, the epinephrine relaxes muscles along the airway while constricting blood vessels.

The Fairfield officers also underwent training to ensure the devices were used correctly.

The move comes at a time when allergies, especially food allergies, are at the forefront of food safety. Contamination of nonallergenic foods with allergenic protein, such as peanut or eggs, now is considered an adulterant under the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA). If a food product that shouldn’t have an allergenic ingredient contains proteins from the allergen, those proteins make the product potentially dangerous for human consumption.

The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) also is working on a bill that would encourage states to create laws that ensure epinephrine is available in schools to treat anaphylactic reactions.

About 15 million people in the U.S. alone suffer from food allergies. That’s approximately 4 percent of U.S. adults and about 8 percent of U.S. children, according to FAAN.

And it’s a growing concern – in the decade between 1997 and 2007, there was an 18 percent increase in food allergies, according to FAAN.

And that’s only food allergies. An estimated 1 in 5 Americans suffers from some form of allergies or asthma – that’s about 60 million people, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

To read the full story, click here.

To check out Neogen’s Food Allergen Handbook, click here.

To see other allergen-related blog posts, click here.

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