As the EU discusses new, much tougher, legislation on the labelling of potential allergens on food products, a new study from the Isle of Wight, UK, substantiates current fears over the mounting cases of allergic reactions.
Scientists at the David Hide Asthma and Allergy Research Centre, St Mary's Hospital, set out to investigate whether the prevalence of sensitisation and clinical allergy to peanuts is increasing. The researchers, led by Jane Grundy, studied 2878 children born between 1 September 1994, and 31 August 1996, living on the Isle of Wight.
A total of 1273 completed questionnaires, and 1246 had skin prick tests at the age of three to four years. Those with positive skin prick test responses to peanut were subjected to oral peanut tests, unless there was a history of immediate systemic reaction. These data were compared with information on sensitisation and clinical allergy to peanut available from a previous group born in 1989 in the same geographic area.
The results suggest that more children are developing peanut allergies. According to the scientists there was a two-fold increase in reported peanut allergy, with peanut sensitisation increasing three-fold - 41 (3.3 per cent) out of 1246 children were sensitised in 1994 to 1996 compared with 11 (1.1 cent) of 981 sensitised 6 years ago. Of the 41 sensitised children in the current study, ten reported a convincing clinical reaction to peanut, and 8 had positive 'oral challenge' results, giving an overall estimate of peanut allergy of 1.5 per cent (18 out of 1246).
The researchers concluded that reactions to peanuts had clearly increased between 1989 and 1994 to 1996. Full findings are published in the November issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 110:784-9.