Israeli Army Steps Up Allergy Awareness After Soldier's Nut Death

Soldiers who are known to have food allergies have been given EpiPen auto-injectors, and signs have been put up in dining areas warning of possible allergens.

Illustration: peanuts.
© Brad Calkins | Dreamstime.com - Peanut background

The Israel Defense Forces has started to post signs in its dining areas warning of possible allergens in the food, several weeks after a new recruit died after mistakenly eating granola that contained nuts. 

Soldiers who are known to have food allergies have been given EpiPen auto-injectors which deliver a dose of epinephrine in the event of an allergic attack. The family of Shalev Hazan, who had been inducted only eight days before ingesting the nuts, said after his death in December that he received an epinephrine injection only after he’d been unconscious for more than an hour.

Last year the IDF bought thousands of EpiPens at a cost of 150,000 shekels ($38,000). There has been a rise in the number of requests for a prescription to get the injector among soldiers who suffer from serious allergies. According to an IDF officer, soldiers who are known to have allergies are being summoned to briefings on the issue, to raise awareness of the proper response.

Following Shalev’s death, there was a Military Police investigation, as well as a probe by a Technology and Logistics Branch investigative committee headed by a colonel. Yossi Hazan, Shalev’s father, told Haaretz yesterday that he has yet to receive the report on his son’s death. 

As for the allergy-awareness initiative, “It’s too late for me,” he said. “There’s no doubt that if there had been an injector in the base clinic, today I would have another son.”

Hazan said his son had asked for an EpiPen upon arriving at his base, but he had not received it before the incident that led to his death. “From the start he informed them of his allergy. I don’t know what the procedures are in the army; I heard from a friend of his that Shalev had been told he’d get the injector within two weeks, but even if that were true it would have been too late.”

The IDF Spokesman said, “The investigation of the incident is continuing. The IDF shares in the grief of the family and will continue to accompanying them. The IDF has no shortage of EpiPen injectors, and any soldier who needs the medication will get it upon presenting a prescription.”