Several indicators suggest that food allergy in infants is common and possibly increasing. Few studies have used oral food challenge to measure this phenomenon at the population level.
To measure the prevalence of common IgE-mediated childhood food allergies in a population-based sample of 12-month-old infants by using predetermined food challenge criteria to measure outcomes.
A sampling frame was used to select recruitment areas to attain a representative population base. Recruitment occurred at childhood immunization sessions in Melbourne, Australia. Infants underwent skin prick testing, and those with any sensitization (wheal size ≥ 1 mm) to 1 or more foods (raw egg, peanut, sesame, shellfish, or cow's milk) were invited to attend an allergy research clinic. Those who registered a wheal size ≥ 1 mm to raw egg, peanut, or sesame underwent oral food challenge.
Amongst 2848 infants (73% participation rate), the prevalence of any sensitization to peanut was 8.9% (95% CI, 7.9-10.0); raw egg white, 16.5% (95% CI, 15.1-17.9); sesame, 2.5% (95% CI, 2.0-3.1); cow's milk, 5.6% (95% CI, 3.2-8.0); and shellfish, 0.9% (95% CI, 0.6-1.5). The prevalence of challenge-proven peanut allergy was 3.0% (95% CI, 2.4-3.8); raw egg allergy, 8.9% (95% CI, 7.8-10.0); and sesame allergy, 0.8% (95% CI, 0.5-1.1). Oral food challenges to cow's milk and shellfish were not performed. Of those with raw egg allergy, 80.3% could tolerate baked egg.
More than 10% of 1-year-old infants had challenge-proven IgE-mediated food allergy to one of the common allergenic foods of infancy. The high prevalence of allergic disease in Australia requires further investigation and may be related to modifiable environmental factors.
Osborne NJ, Koplin JJ et al. (2011). "Prevalence of challenge-proven IgE-mediated food allergy using population-based sampling and predetermined challenge criteria in infants." J Allergy Clin Immunol 127(3): 668-676 e661-662.