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A student’s tragic passing after a school sporting event has the nation asking: are we doing enough to combat food allergies?

A cloud of grief hangs over Sydney this week as the family of Leon Li, a Year 11 student, reels from his sudden death. Reports indicate Li suffered a fatal reaction to food after attending an informal gathering at the popular Zest restaurant in the city’s iconic Spit Bridge area. Li’s tragic passing is a sobering reminder of Australia’s severe food allergy problem.

“This could have been any of our children,” says Dr Nina Markovic Khaze, a Northern Beaches resident, parent of children with life-threatening food allergies, and co-founder of the Allergy Microbiome Foundation Limited. “As the country with one of the highest rates of food allergies globally, we can’t ignore this escalating danger any longer.”

While details are still emerging, and a coroner’s report will provide more clarity in the future, the tragedy has reignited debate around food allergy awareness and safety protocols in public places. With even seemingly mild food allergies capable of causing anaphylaxis, a potentially lethal reaction, there’s a growing call for better education and immediate access to life-saving treatments like EpiPens in all food venues.

“The time for complacency is over,” Dr Markovic Khaze insists. “Tax deductions for businesses that keep EpiPens on hand could be a simple yet powerful way to make a difference. In memory of Leon, we need a national campaign to raise awareness and drive concrete action on food safety.”

What Can We Do?

Understand the Scale of the Problem: Australia has one of the world’s highest rates of food allergies. It’s critical to understand that even minor allergies can be dangerous.

Always Be Prepared: If you or someone you love has food allergies, always carry an EpiPen and know the signs of anaphylaxis.

Push for Change: Contact your local politicians, advocate for tax deductions on EpiPens for businesses, and support organisations like the Allergy Microbiome Foundation that drive change. Australia owes it to Leon Li, his family, and all those affected by food allergies to find solutions. The status quo cannot continue.

Dr Nina Markovic Khaze co-founded the Allergy Microbiome Foundation Limited with a world-renowned allergist/immunologist Dr Douglas Jones MD from USA.