Mall security guards have never needed EpiPens in Hamilton pilot project

The city is nearly one year into its pilot project to have food allergy injectors in local malls — but so far, no one has needed it.
Marilyn Allen of Anaphylaxis Canada demonstrates how the auto injectors work with Jackson Square security guards Michael Thibodeau and Spencer Porter at the launch of the pilot program in September 2014. The city's board of health voted Wednesday to extend the project another year. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The city has nearly finished its one-year pilot project to have food allergy injectors in local malls — but so far, no one has needed it.

Mall guards in Jackson Square have been carrying one of two brands of epinephrine auto injectors (EAIs)—EpiPen or Allerject — in their belts since September. Anaphylaxis Canada trained them.

But since the one-year, $100,000 project launched, only one person has had a food allergy emergency, Public Health says in a new report. And that woman had her own EAI.

In total, security guards have removed their EAIs just three times in the past 10 months. 

It's good nobody's using it. It means no one's gone into cardiac arrest or an anaphylactic attack.- Coun. Lloyd Ferguson

Coun. Lloyd Ferguson of Ancaster says the point isn't how many times an EAI is used, but that it's there if someone needs it.

"It's good nobody's using it," he said. "It means no one's gone into cardiac arrest or an anaphylactic attack, but it's there if someone needs it."

So far, Jackson Square is the only location for the project. The staff report asks for another year so there's time to roll it out to other areas, and to get enough data to monitor its effectiveness.

To date, 24 security guards, four Tim Hortons staff and one Anchor Bar staff member has been trained to use an EAI. The goal is to use the next year to extend it to at least one other mall, Ferguson said. But the city is having difficulty getting another mall on board.

Ferguson said he and the city's medical officer of health, Elizabeth Richardson, hope to meet with senior decision makers behind Eastgate Square and Lime Ridge to convince them to participate. The ultimate goal, he said, is to have one in every restaurant and food court in the city.

"I'm puzzled why the other two malls won't come on side." 

The Ancaster Rotary AM club initiated the project after Maia Santarelli-Gallo of Stoney Creek collapsed and died in a Burlington mall in 2013. The 12-year-old, who had been diagnosed with a mild food allergy, was eating ice cream with her family when she had an allergic reaction.

McMaster University is studying the results of the pilot project. In the past 10 months, the report says, there was one "critical incident" because of food allergy in June, but the woman "self-injected" her own EAI and survived. 

McMaster and others will look for sources of funding to continue the pilot, the report says. So the additional year of study won't cost taxpayers.

The city's board of health will vote on the extension at its meeting Wednesday.