Monday, September 26, 2011

FAI’s Food Allergy Prevalence Study

by Kelley Lindberg

In 2008, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that 1 in every 25 children had a food allergy. Now, just three years later, a new survey sponsored by the Food Allergy Initiative (FAI) estimates that 8%, or 1 out of every 13 children, has a food allergy.

Published in the July 2011 issues of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, this latest study analyzes interviews from over 38,000 households with at least 1 child under 18 years of age to discover “The Prevalence, Severity, and Distribution of Childhood Food Allergy in the United States.”

One out of every 13 children is an alarming number – that means 2 children in every classroom in the United States has a food allergy. This study verifies what many people in the food allergy community and in the medical profession have been feeling for some time – food allergies are increasing at an appalling rate.

Here are some of the other findings published in this study, published on FAI’s website:
  • 38.7 percent of the children in the survey had a severe or life-threatening allergy
  • 30.4 percent had multiple food allergies
  • Children with food allergies were most commonly allergic to peanuts (25.2 percent), milk (21.1 percent) and shellfish (17.2 percent), followed by tree nuts (13.1 percent), and egg (9.8 percent)
  • Severe reactions were most common among children with a tree nut, peanut, shellfish, soy, or fin fish allergy
  • Children aged 14-17 years were most likely to have a severe food allergy
  • Food allergies affect children in all geographic regions
  • Asian and African American children were more likely to have a convincing history of food allergy, but were less likely to receive a formal diagnosis when compared to white children

While food allergy has been an increasing concern in the medical world, sparking a growing number of research projects and studies, this new study may help to propel even more projects into the funding spotlight. In addition to potential treatments and cures, research into the possible causes of food allergy, as well as identification of the individual protein molecules that cause reactions, will carry us much further towards a real understanding of this complex and frustratingly confusing disease.
In addition, the results of this survey may encourage more food manufacturers to examine their production processes and facilities for ways to more closely control cross-contamination with the major allergens. Especially for manufacturers of kid-oriented foods and snacks, knowing they are eliminating up to 8% of their potential customers by not adhering to strict allergen cross-contamination prevention may be just the catalyst they need to change their processes.
It would be easy to look at this study and see only the bad news: food allergies are becoming more wide-spread. But it’s important to look at the positive news this also represents: because food allergies are becoming so wide-spread, more researchers, manufacturers, chefs, teachers, doctors, coaches, colleagues, and neighbors will become committed to finding cures, treatments, safe practices, recipes, and other solutions to eliminating food allergy from our world sooner, rather than later.

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