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Food Allergies

Statistics Prove Big Increase in Food Allergy

Researchers in Canada are moving closer to having solid figures on the number of people with food allergies in Canada. Dr. Moshe Ben-Shoshan presented data at the AAAAI meeting that showed 1.68 per cent of children have “probable” food allergy, while 1.59 per cent have “probable” tree nut allergy.

This represents a significant rate of these two allergies, higher in fact than the new U.S. rates of peanut and tree nut allergies in children, which, in the case of peanut allergy, grew by 250 per cent over 11 years.

Ben-Shoshan and his team are cautious with their statistics, however. He explained to Allergic Living that the term “probable” is used to identify those people who had a convincing history of food allergy, or have been diagnosed by a physician. The survey of close to 10,000 individuals was conducted in 2008 and 2009. After the survey, researchers attempted to contact the doctors of people who said they had a food allergy, to confirm the diagnosis. This proved difficult, as many physicians didn’t respond to the requests.

When including only those people whose doctors confirmed they had a food allergy (and it was tested for in a way the researchers found satisfactory), 1.03 per cent of children had peanut allergy, and 0.69 per cent had tree nut allergy.

Ben-Shoshan believes the “probable” figure is the one that more likely represents the number of people with the allergy, as it is similar to the number of children found to have peanut allergy in a study in Montreal, where all the children were diagnosed using clinical history and confirming tests, including food challenges. Final data is expected to be published later this spring.

Child (probable allergy)
Peanut 1.68%
Tree nut 1.59%
Fish 0.18%
Shellfish 0.5%
Sesame 0.23%
Adult (probable allergy)
Peanut 0.71%
Tree nut 1%
Fish 0.56%
Shellfish 1.69%
Sesame 0.05%

First published in Allergic Living magazine, Spring 2010 edition.
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