Study shows 8% of children have food allergies

by Jeff Gelski
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NEW YORK — One of 13 children in the United States, or 8%, suffer from a food allergy, according to a study funded by the Food Allergy Initiative and published in the July issue of Pediatrics. The numbers are higher than a 2008 estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of one in 25 children, said Mary Jane Marchisotto, executive director of the New York-based F.A.I., a private source of funding for food allergy research in the United States.

The new study involved 38,480 families and estimated 5.9 million U.S. children under age 18 have a food allergy. It found children with food allergies most commonly were allergic to peanuts (25%), milk (21%), shellfish (17%), tree nuts (13%) and eggs (10%). Severe reactions were most common among children with a tree nut, peanut, shellfish, soy or fin fish allergy.

The study also found children 14-17 were most likely to have a severe food allergy; food allergies affect children in all geographic regions; and Asian and African American children were more likely to have a convincing history or food allergy, but they were less likely to receive a formal diagnosis when compared to white children.

“This is the largest study ever conducted on the prevalence of food allergy in U.S. children, and it differs from previous studies in important ways,” said Ruchi S. Gupta, principal investigator and a pediatrician at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. “Our goal was to paint a comprehensive picture of childhood food allergy in America. We began by surveying a representative sample of children in the U.S. and collected extensive information on each and every food allergy reported, including date of onset, method of diagnosis and reaction history.”

The study also collected data on race and ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status and geographic region.
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