Prevalence of fish and shellfish allergy: A systematic review

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2016 Sep;117(3):264-272.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2016.07.015.


Background: Accurate information on the prevalence of food allergy facilitates a more evidence-based approach to planning of allergy services and can identify important geographic variations.

Objective: To conduct a systematic review to assess the age-specific prevalence of fish and shellfish allergy worldwide.

Methods: Searches were conducted using Web of Science and PubMed. Population-based cross-sectional studies and cohort studies that examined the prevalence of fish and shellfish allergy (IgE mediated and non-IgE mediated) at an identifiable point in time were eligible for inclusion in the study. Reviewers extracted general study information and study design, type of food allergy considered, food(s) assessed, method of diagnosis, sampling strategy, and sample characteristics. Raw data were extracted and percentage prevalence and 95% confidence intervals calculated.

Results: A total of 7,333 articles were identified of which 61 studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in this review. The prevalence of fish allergy ranged from 0% to 7% and the prevalence of shellfish allergy from 0% to 10.3%, depending on the method of diagnosis. Where food challenges were used, the prevalence for fish allergy was found to be 0% to 0.3% and for shellfish allergy was 0% to 0.9%.

Conclusion: Few studies have established the prevalence of fish or shellfish allergy using the gold standard double-blind, placebo-controlled challenge criteria, with most instead relying on self-reported questionnaire-based methods. The limited data available suggest that fish allergy prevalence is similar worldwide; however, shellfish allergy prevalence may be higher in the Southeast Asia region.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fishes*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Shellfish / adverse effects*