oa Current Allergy & Clinical Immunology - Epidemiology of food allergy : review article

Volume 27, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1609-3607



The prevalence of food allergies has increased in the past 2 decades particularly in developed countries, but with recent evidence of an increase in developing countries too. Despite this change in prevalence, the most common allergenic foods remain cow's milk, hen's egg, wheat, soya, fish, shellfish, peanut and tree nuts.

Food allergy prevalence studies are thwart with inherent difficulties, and using self-report or sensitisation patterns is an inaccurate measure of food allergy prevalence. Food challenge testing is the optimal way of proving food allergy, albeit labour and cost-intensive. Large population studies and meta-analyses of studies, using food challenges, have shown a wide variation in food allergy prevalence, ranging from 1% to over 10%, depending on the age of the child and the region studied. The prevalence of food allergy in South Africa is currently unknown, though thought to be on the increase. This is currently being investigated in a large population based study in the Western Cape. Risk factors for food allergy are both genetic and environmental, such as diet and microbial diversity. Children with eczema are at particular risk of food allergy because of cutaneous exposure to allergens.

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