According to the community-based EuroPrevall surveys, prevalence of self-reported food allergy (FA) in adults across Europe ranges from 2% to 37% for any food and 1% to 19% for 24 selected foods.
To determine the prevalence of probable FA (symptoms plus specific IgE-sensitization) and challenge-confirmed FA in European adults, along with symptoms and causative foods.
In phase I of the EuroPrevall project, a screening questionnaire was sent to a random sample of the general adult population in 8 European centers. Phase II consisted of an extensive questionnaire on reactions to 24 preselected commonly implicated foods, and measurement of specific IgE levels. Multiple imputation was performed to estimate missing symptom and serology information for nonresponders. In the final phase, subjects with probable FA were invited for double-blind placebo-controlled food challenge.
Prevalence of probable FA in adults in Athens, Reykjavik, Utrecht, Lodz, Madrid, and Zurich was respectively 0.3%, 1.4%, 2.1%, 2.8%, 3.3%, and 5.6%. Oral allergy symptoms were reported most frequently (81.6%), followed by skin symptoms (38.2%) and rhinoconjunctivitis (29.5%). Hazelnut, peach, and apple were the most common causative foods in Lodz, Utrecht, and Zurich. Peach was also among the top 3 causative foods in Athens and Madrid. Shrimp and fish allergies were relatively common in Madrid and Reykjavik. Of the 55 food challenges performed, 72.8% were classified as positive.
FA shows substantial geographical variation in prevalence and causative foods across Europe. Although probable FA is less common than self-reported FA, prevalence still reaches almost 6% in parts of Europe.