About food allergy

Prevalence of food allergy

The last 30 years have seen a rise in the incidence of allergic disease, including IgE –mediated food allergy and it is now estimated that approximately 5 to7 per cent of infants and 1 to 2 per cent of adults suffer from this condition.

It is projected that up to 20 million European citizens suffer from food allergy. A variety of environmental and dietary factors may play a role in determining a person’s susceptibility to allergic disease, with events early in life being thought to be especially important. In many countries, national recommendations have been made on how to feed infants to reduce the risk of food allergy however, these recommendations vary widely reflecting the lack of firm evidence.

Living with food allergy

Currently, there is no cure for food allergy and individuals with food allergy may have to practice strict, life-long avoidance of foods to which they are sensitised and, consequently, their quality of life is often impaired. Those at risk of severe reactions must carry emergency medication in case they accidentally consume the food(s) to which they are allergic.

However, managing food allergens to avoid their unintended presence in products where they are not part of the recipe remains an issue for the food industry. The development of more meaningful food labelling is vitally important, and an evidence base is urgently needed to identify what the generally safe level of allergen contamination is and derive action levels. These will allow allergens to be managed more effectively by targeting resources and thus minimising costs.

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