Food allergy diagnostics: scientific and unproven procedures

Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2005 Jun;5(3):261-6. doi: 10.1097/01.all.0000168792.27948.f9.


Purpose of review: The accurate diagnosis of food allergy is crucial not only for the right treatment but also for the avoidance of unnecessary diets. The diagnostic work-up of suspected food allergy includes the measurement of food-specific IgE antibodies using serologic assays, the skin prick test, elimination diets and oral provocation tests. In addition, some approaches are either under further rigorous investigation (the atopy patch test) or are already in widespread use, particularly by practitioners of alternative or complementary medicine, but are considered unproven. These diagnostic methods include specific IgG to foods, provocation/neutralization testing, kinesiology, cytotoxic tests and electrodermal testing. This review covers some of the most common scientifically validated and unproven approaches used in the diagnosis of food allergy.

Recent findings: For specific serum IgE and the SPT, decision points have been established for some foods, allowing prediction of clinical relevance. The APT may be helpful, especially when considered in combination with defined levels of specific IgE. In regard to other approaches, most scientific studies do refute the usefulness of these approaches.

Summary: In most patients, controlled oral food challenges remain the gold standard in the diagnostic work-up of suspected food allergy. The skin prick test and measurement of specific IgE antibodies to food extracts, individual allergens or allergenic peptides are helpful in the diagnostic approach. Food-specific IgG continues to be an unproven or experimental test. The other alternative and complementary techniques have no proven benefit and may endanger patients via misdiagnosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Complementary Therapies / methods
  • Food Hypersensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood*
  • Skin Tests / methods*


  • Immunoglobulin E