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It is important to use reliable methods to diagnose food allergy in order to avoid unnecessary dietary restrictions and to find out how big the problem of food allergy is.

Individuals with food allergy develop symptoms by eating foods that are simply part of a healthy diet for the vast majority of the population. The only way for the allergic individual to manage their condition is to avoid eating the food that causes the allergic reaction. Unfortunately, the public generally overestimates the number of people with food allergy. As a result many people avoid certain foods unnecessarily. Reliable diagnostic methods are required in order to avoid such unnecessary dietary restrictions.

Researchers have estimated that 1-5 % of the total population have a food allergy. These estimates are difficult to make due to differences in the diagnostic procedures and tests used.  It is therefore also important to use reliable diagnostic methods in order to find out how big the problem of food allergy is.

A skin prick test with fresh food carried out by the prick-prick techniqueAccurate food allergy diagnosis is a specialized procedure requiring considerable clinical expertise. Currently, there are a range of diagnostic tests and procedures available to medical doctors. Skin prick testing, blood tests, and challenge testing are described in “Diagnosis Today”.  All the current diagnostic tests have advantages and shortcomings. Further research is required to develop more accurate, convenient, and cost-effective tests. The ”Unproven Diagnostic Methods” section mentions a range of diagnostic methods that scientists cannot recommend the use of. 

More information

EuroPrevall state of the art paper:

  • R. Asero, B.K. Ballmer-Weber, K. Beyer, A. Conti, R. Dubakiene, M. Fernandez-Rivas, K. Hoffmann-Sommergruber, J. Lidholm, T. Mustakov, J.N.G. Oude Elberink, R.S.H. Pumphrey, P.S. Skov, R. van Ree,  B.J. Vlieg-Boerstra, R. Hiller, J.O. Hourihane, M. Kowalski, N.G. Papadopoulos, J.-M. Wal, E.N.C. Mills, Stefan Vieths (2007). IgE-Mediated food allergy diagnosis: Current status and new perspectives. Mol Nutr Food Res 51, 135-147.

Lay version of the above paper: