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Report: Up to 1 in 10 Americans May Suffer From Food Allergies

Posted May 13 2010 12:00am

/PRNewswire/ -- A review published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and reported in the New York Times underscores the need for additional research on the prevalence, diagnosis, and treatment of food allergy. One of the most important points suggested by the JAMA study as well as a New York Times article on the subject is that as many as 1 in 10 people may have food allergy.

A May 11 New York Times article regarding JAMA's review states that "true incidence of food allergies is only about 8 percent for children and less than 5 percent for adults."

Between 2 and less than 10 percent of the population has food allergy, according to the JAMA review, "Diagnosing and Managing Common Food Allergies." This figure clearly illustrates the need to increase government commitment to research, testing, and education of a growing problem.

"The systematic review of the food allergy literature published in JAMA is helpful in crystallizing the fact that food allergy is common, affecting millions of Americans, but also points out that we need much more research to better understand the exact prevalence, and how to prevent, more easily diagnose, and treat this life-changing medical problem," said Scott H. Sicherer, M.D., professor of pediatrics, clinician, and clinical researcher at Jaffe Food Allergy Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported an 18 percent increase in food allergy among children from 1997-2007 and a 3.5-fold increase in hospital admissions related to food allergy among children between the period from 1998-2000 to 2004-2006. The CDC also estimates about 4 percent of U.S. children under the age of 18 have a food allergy.

However, despite these statistics, just $26 million was appropriated last year for research on food allergy, a potentially life-threatening medical condition. The National Institutes of Health last year allocated $175 million for autism funding, which is estimated to affect 1 in 100 children.

JAMA's review was conducted in conjunction with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is drafting national Guidelines to the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergies. The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) and The Food Allergy Initiative (FAI), which have long focused on the need for clinical studies dedicated to food allergy, applaud the government for undertaking these guidelines.

The New York Times article also states that many people who think they have a food allergy actually do not. There is no dispute that many individuals are misdiagnosed with food allergies. Better diagnostic tools are needed. The gold standard for food allergy diagnosis, a double-blinded, placebo-controlled food challenge, is not typically used by allergists because they are not being fully reimbursed for this time-consuming, expensive and potentially dangerous procedure. Funding of this procedure should be addressed by insurance companies.

While improved data on prevalence is necessary, the potential severity of a food allergy reaction is such that individuals should err on the side of caution and assume they have a food allergy and practice avoidance until they are properly diagnosed.

Researchers throughout the world are working diligently to find treatments and a cure for food allergy. FAAN and FAI call upon the federal government to help find a cure for food allergy by providing the necessary funding for quality research.

ABOUT FAAN

Founded in 1991 by Anne Munoz-Furlong, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) is the world leader in information about food allergy, a potentially life-threatening medical condition that afflicts approximately 12 million Americans, or one out of every 25. A nonprofit organization based in Fairfax, Va., FAAN has approximately 25,000 members in the U.S., Canada, and 58 other countries. It is dedicated to increasing public awareness of food allergy and its consequences, to educating people about the condition, and to advancing research on behalf of all those affected by it. FAAN provides information and educational resources about food allergy to patients, their families, schools, health professionals, pharmaceutical companies, the food industry, and government officials. For more information, please visit FAAN at www.foodallergy.org.

ABOUT FAI

The Food Allergy Initiative (FAI) is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that funds research seeking a cure for food allergies. FAI was founded in 1998 by concerned parents and grandparents to support basic and clinical research worldwide; public policies to make the world safer for those afflicted; and educational programs to make the hospitality industry, schools, day care centers, and camps safer. The largest private source of funding for food allergy research in the United States, FAI has contributed more than $65 million toward the fulfillment of its mission. For more information, visit www.faiusa.org, call 212-207-1974, or e-mail info@faiusa.org.

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