May 9/New York/PRNewswire -- The nation's two leading food allergy organizations are uniting to advance a cure and promote education for food allergy, a severe and potentially life-threatening disease. The Food Allergy Initiative (FAI) and the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) announced their intent to merge, pending regulatory approvals.

Recent research shows that food allergies are a significant and growing public health issue affecting one in every 13 children -- roughly two in every classroom. With nearly 40% of these children already having experienced a severe or life-threatening food-allergic reaction, the need for a cure is urgent.

The unified organization will focus on funding research to find a cure, advocating for food-allergic people, increasing awareness about the severity and growing prevalence of food allergies, and educating the public and other key stakeholders about the disease and the urgent need for a cure.

"FAI and FAAN have collaborated for nearly 15 years on initiatives to increase understanding of the severity of food allergies and to support food-allergic families," said Todd Slotkin, chairman of FAI. "Bringing together the considerable expertise and resources that both organizations offer will elevate both our ongoing private commitment to find a cure for food allergies and our work on behalf of the food-allergic community."

"Every day we work with thousands of families across the U.S. who are dealing with the serious physical, social, and emotional impacts of food allergies," said Janet Atwater, chair of FAAN. "The unification of FAAN and FAI allows us to move forward together as an even stronger champion for these families and the driving force advancing research to find a cure."

John Lehr will serve as the new organization's chief executive officer. Lehr brings over 20 years of healthcare nonprofit management and fundraising experience to the merged organization. Lehr previously served as president and CEO of CureSearch for Children's Cancer, where he was responsible for establishing the direction of the nonprofit foundation, supervising a 130-person staff, and managing fundraising, advocacy and awareness initiatives. Prior to CureSearch, Lehr was the vice president of major and planned giving for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, where he helped lead the Foundation's $175 million major gifts campaign.

"In the U.S., food allergies send a person to the emergency room every three minutes. This is a serious disease with potentially deadly consequences, but a cure is within reach," said Lehr. "By unifying the efforts of these leading organizations, we can continue to secure the private and public support needed to advance a cure for food allergies, and provide critical resources for food-allergic individuals and families."

The current executive leaders of FAAN and FAI, Maria Acebal and Mary Jane Marchisotto, respectively, expressed how pleased they were to be "formalizing what has been a particularly strong and productive partnership over the last few years." Both will retain senior management positions in the merged organization and, together with Lehr, lead the post-merger integration activities and ongoing operations.

 From the May 9, 2012, Prepared Foods’ Daily News