Food allergy is more common than you think!
Food allergy is a common global problem that has been increasing in prevalence in the last two to three decades (1). It has been estimated that at least 240 million people (3%) around the world may suffer from food allergy (2). In Europe only more than 17 million people suffer from food allergy, affecting about 5-6% of children and 3-4% of adults (3).
There is a food allergy when the immune system is involved in the reaction to food. Only a doctor can diagnose a food allergy as some people may react to foods without being allergic (see The difference between Food Allergy and Food Intolerance).
More than 170 foods may cause food allergies. The foods that most commonly cause serious allergic reactions on a worldwide basis are milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts followed by cereals (mainly wheat), soybeans, fish, and shellfish. Most allergic reactions among children are due to a limited number of foods, namely egg, peanut, milk, and tree nuts. Fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and peanuts are responsible for most allergic reactions to foods among adults.
Symptoms of food allergies vary between different people, although a person will tend to have the same reactions each time the allergenic food is consumed. The symptoms of food allergies range from mild discomfort to severe, life-threatening reactions (anaphylaxis) that require immediate medical intervention. (4)
There is no active treatment yet, and avoidance of food allergens is the only strategy along with rescue therapy in case of emergency. (5)
Not only does an increase in prevalence exist but the complexity of food allergy is increasing as is the severity of anaphylaxis resulting in more hospital admissions for anaphylaxis over the last decade.
Food allergy has an impact on the quality of life of those who are allergic and their families by fear of accidental exposures and serious or fatal reactions to foods. Individuals with food allergy may experience challenges with dietary restrictions and uncomfortable social situations including bullying at school (1).
Food allergy is a serious condition, so it is part of our mission to raise awareness the world can be safer and more inclusive for people with food allergies.
(1) El-Ghoneimy, D., Dahdah, L., Galván, C., & Sato, S. (2019). The Global Problem of food allergy - Information Sheet. World Allergy Organization - World Allergy Week 2019, 1–8.
(2) Fiocchi A, Sampson HA, Bahna SL, Lack G. (2014). “Food Allergy”, Section 2.6 in WAO White Book on Allergy. World Allergy Organization, 2014.
(3) Vieira, R. (2015). Alergénios Alimentares: Um estudo sinóptico. Universidade Nova de Lisboa.
(4) EAACI (2018). About Food Allergy. Available in: https://patients.eaaci.org/
(5) WAO (2019). Announcement: World Allergy Week 2019 will focus on food allergy as a global problema. Available in: https://www.worldallergy.org/