Food allergy in the United States

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An example of a list of allergens in a food item.

In the United States, it is estimated that up to twelve million people have food allergies.[1]

Food allergies cause roughly 30,000 emergency room visits and 100 to 200 deaths per year[2][dubious ] and the prevalence is rising.[3] Food allergy affects as many as 5% of infants less than three years of age[4] and 3% to 4% of adults.[5]

For example, an estimated 8% of children have at least one food allergy, a projected total of 5.9 million children across the population, according to a 2011 study published in the journal Pediatrics, “The Prevalence, Severity, and Distribution of Childhood Food Allergy in the United States."[6]

Although sensitivity levels vary by country, the most common food allergies are allergies to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, shellfish, soy and wheat.[7] [clarification needed] These are often referred to as "the big eight."[8] They account for over 90% of the food allergies in the United States.[9][not in citation given]


Under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-282), companies are required to disclose on the label whether the product contains a major food allergen in clear, plain language. The allergens have to clearly be called out in the ingredient statement. Most companies list allergens in a statement separate from the ingredient statement.[10]

In 2009, Governor Deval Patrick signed into Massachusetts law an Act Relative to Food Allergy Awareness in Restaurants. The allergy awareness act requires food protection managers to view a video about food allergens, a poster identifying the 8 most common food allergens and information about identifying and responding to food allergies posted for food service staff, and customers must be notified of their obligation to inform staff about any food allergies.[11]

On 4 January 2011, President Barack Obama signed into federal law the Food Safety and Modernization Act of 2010 (S510/HR2751, 111th Congress). Section 112 of this Act establishes voluntary food allergy and anaphylaxis management guidelines for public kindergartens, elementary and secondary schools.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Food Allergy Media Q&A" (PDF). Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. 2010-05-26. Retrieved 2011-03-25. 
  2. ^ "Food Allergy Facts and Statistics" (PDF). Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. 2007. 
  3. ^ Kagan, Rhoda (February 2003). "Food allergy: an overview". Environmental Health Perspectives 111 (2): 223–5. doi:10.1289/ehp.5702. PMC 1241355. PMID 12573910. 
  4. ^ Sampson H (2004). "Update on food allergy". J Allergy Clin Immunol 113 (5): 805–819. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2004.03.014. PMID 15131561. 
  5. ^ Sicherer S, Sampson H (2006). "9. Food allergy". J Allergy Clin Immunol 117 (2 Suppl Mini–Primer): S470–5. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2005.05.048. PMID 16455349. 
  6. ^ "Prevalence and Severity of Child Food Allergies in the U.S.". Journalist's 
  7. ^ "Food Allergy Facts & Figures". Asthma and Allergy Foundation of Americas. March 28, 2007. 
  8. ^ "Food allergy and intolerance". Allergy & Intolerance. Food Additives and Ingredients Association. Retrieved 2010-06-08. 
  9. ^ "Common Food Allergies". Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. March 28, 2007. 
  10. ^ "Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004". FDA. August 2, 2004. 
  11. ^ "Memo: Proposed Amendments to 105 CMR 590.000, State Sanitary Code Chapter X: Minimum Sanitation Standards for Food Establishments, to Comply with the Allergen Awareness Act (Word)". Massachusetts Department of Health. June 9, 2010. 

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