Value of allergy tests for the diagnosis of food allergy

Dig Dis. 2014;32(1-2):84-8. doi: 10.1159/000357077. Epub 2014 Feb 28.


Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is a chronic T helper 2-type inflammatory disorder. Concurrent allergic diseases have been observed in EoE cases at a high prevalence. The observation that EoE responds to dietary treatment suggests that EoE is an antigen-driven process. However, the pathogenesis by which allergens mediate the eosinophilic disease in the esophagus needs further clarification. In immediate-type food allergy, diagnosis is based on a careful case history followed by a search for food-specific IgE either by skin testing [skin prick test (SPT)] or in vitro (e.g. ImmunoCAP). In children with atopic dermatitis and a food allergy to milk, eggs, peanuts, fish or wheat, the SPT and in vitro determination of specific IgE show excellent sensitivity and negative predictive values, whereas the positive predictive values are low. In pollen-related secondary food allergy, sensitivity and negative predictive values of IgE testing is much lower. Consequently, oral food provocation is the gold standard for the diagnosis of food allergy. Similarly, in EoE patients, SPT, atopy patch test and in vitro determination of IgE to foods do not reliably predict food allergy, and the average positive predictive values of these allergy tests are below 50%. In conclusion, the value of allergy tests to identify triggering foods are limited, and triggering foods have to be identified by an elimination diet and consequent reintroduction of single foods under biopsy control. However, due to the high prevalence of concurrent allergic diseases among EoE patients, an allergy work-up is urgently indicated in each patient with EoE.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Food / adverse effects
  • Food Hypersensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Patch Tests
  • Skin Tests / methods*