The study, reportedly the first representative US survey where quantitative sensitization to various foods was investigated, found that overall the prevalence of clinical food allergy was 2.55 percent, with food sensitization observed in 16.8 percent of the population.
The findings were based on data from 8,203 people, aged from 1 to 85, participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005-2006.
The issues is of concern for the food industry as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said recently that advisory labeling of allergens in food “may not be protecting the health of allergic consumers”.
The FDA is currently developing a long-term strategy to assist manufacturers in using allergen advisory labeling that is “truthful and not misleading, conveys a clear and uniform message, and adequately informs food-allergic consumers and their caregivers”.
The most prevalent food allergies include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. Reactions to these foods by an allergic person can range from a tingling sensation around the mouth and lips, to hives and sometimes death, depending on the severity of the reaction.
The research findings were presented at the recent Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). FoodNavigator-USA.com has not seen the full data.
Andrew Liu, MD, told attendees at the AAAAI meeting that peanut and shrimp were the most common allergens in the study population. Further analysis of specific demographic groups showed that blacks, males and children, and especially black male children, had higher levels of sensitization associated with clinical food allergy.
In terms of food sensitization, peanut and shrimp were again the most common, with sensitization higher in children, males, non-Hispanic blacks and persons of lower income.
A report last year from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that the number of young people with a food or digestive allergy has increased 18 percent in a decade.
Approximately three million, or four percent of all US children and teenagers under 18 in 2007 were reported to have a food or digestive allergy within 12 months, compared to just over 2.3m (3.3 percent) in 1997.
Source: 2009 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology March 13, 2009“Food Allergen Sensitivity in the U.S. and Relationship to Allergic Disease” Author: A.H. Liu