Food allergy knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs in the United States

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2009 Jul;103(1):43-50. doi: 10.1016/S1081-1206(10)60142-1.


Background: Members of the general public play a significant role in the well-being of food-allergic children, although little is known about the knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of food allergy among the public.

Objective: To provide insight into food allergy knowledge and perceptions among the general US population.

Methods: A national sample of adults was recruited in February 2008 to complete the validated Web-based Chicago Food Allergy Research Survey for the General Public. Findings were analyzed to provide composite/itemized knowledge scores, describe attitudes and beliefs, and examine the effect of prior knowledge/familiarity with food allergy on knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs.

Results: A sample of 2,148 respondents was obtained. Participants answered 64.9% (range, 12.5%-100.0%) of knowledge-based items correctly. Strengths were identified in areas related to symptoms/severity and triggers/environmental risks of food allergy. Knowledge was poor concerning the distinction between food allergy and food intolerance, the absence of a cure, and current means to treat food allergy. Higher scores were significantly associated with self-report of prior knowledge/familiarity with food allergy, particularly among those with prior training in food allergy (median increase, 7.9%). Perceptions regarding food allergy were generally well distributed, although respondents tended to minimize the stigma associated with food allergy and to oppose specific food allergy policies in schools.

Conclusions: Increased food allergy knowledge among the general public is needed. Improved public awareness of the challenges faced by food-allergic children may encourage adoption of standardized school policies to keep affected children safe. These efforts are critical for protecting young children with food allergy and avoiding life-threatening anaphylactic reactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Education / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Food Hypersensitivity* / diagnosis
  • Food Hypersensitivity* / epidemiology
  • Food Hypersensitivity* / etiology
  • Food Hypersensitivity* / therapy
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Policy
  • Quality of Life
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Regression Analysis
  • United States
  • Young Adult