Prevalence of self-reported food allergy in U.S. adults: 2001, 2006, and 2010

Allergy Asthma Proc. 2015 Nov-Dec;36(6):458-67. doi: 10.2500/aap.2015.36.3895. Epub 2015 Oct 8.


Background: Epidemiologic evidence indicates that food allergies are increasing in the population. Information on a change in self-reported food allergy (srFA) in adults over time is lacking.

Objective: To report the prevalence of srFA and compare differences at three time points over a decade.

Methods: We analyzed srFA and reported physician-diagnosed food allergy in >4000 U.S. adults who participated in the 2010 U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Survey. Information on causative food(s), reaction severity characteristics, and various diagnostic factors was also analyzed. We compared 2010 Food Safety Survey data with 2006 and 2001 data, and highlighted relevant differences.

Results: SrFA prevalence increased significantly, to 13% in 2010 and 14.9% in 2006 compared with 9.1% in 2001 (p < 0.001). Physician diagnosed food allergy was 6.5% in 2010, which was not significantly different compared with 7.6% in 2006 and 5.3% in 2001. SrFA increased in both men and women, non-Hispanic white and black adults, 50-59 year olds, and in adults with a high school or lower education. In 2010, milk, shellfish, and fruits were the most commonly reported food allergens, similar to 2001. Also, in 2010, 15% of reactions reportedly required a hospital visit and 8.4% were treated with epinephrine. Minor differences in reaction severity characteristics were noted among the surveys.

Conclusions: Analysis of survey results indicates that the prevalence of srFA increased among U.S. adults from 2001 to 2010 and that adults are increasingly self-reporting FAs without obtaining medical diagnosis. Improved education about food allergies is needed for this risk group.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Food
  • Food Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / history
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Report
  • United States / epidemiology
  • United States / ethnology
  • Young Adult