Milk and eggs are among the most common food allergens
An allergy is a reaction of the immune system to protect the body from damaging substances like germs or viruses. The immune system also reacts to foreign or strange substances, called allergens, and are, generally, not harmful. The most common allergens are pharmaceuticals, dust, foods, insect venom, mold, pet dander, and pollen. Occasionally, environmental factors can provoke allergies, like low or high temperature, sunlight, etc.
The most exposed body part is the one that can be affected the most; for instance, if inhaled, it can provoke nasal congestion, throat inching, mucus, cough, and wheezing. If eyes are exposed to allergens it can provoke watery eyes, red eyes, swelling and itching; eating allergens can cause nausea, vomit, abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhea, or a severe reaction that can be mortal; if the skin is exposed it can cause skin rash, hives, itching, blisters, and skin peeling.
Because of the increment of food allergies in the last decade, these are considered a public health problem. The estimated prevalence is of 1% to 3% on adults, and 4% to 6% on children. Also, more than 70 foods have been identified as triggers of allergies. A study started in 2015 had the objective of identifying the most common patterns of sensitization to foods through epicutaneous skin tests and the rate of food allergies on kids, as well as the correlation with common allergy diseases on a group of patients.
A total of 365 patients between 1 and 18 years old were analyzed. The most common food allergens the patients were sensitive were milk, eggs, peanuts, and pork meat. The most common food allergies were allergy to cow milk, allergy to chicken eggs, and allergy to wheat.
A food allergen reaction can cause a wide range of clinical responses, like Anaphylaxis. The rate of food allergy vary with age, local diet, and many other factors. Other study performed on 50 adults in Honduras showed the prevalence of 6% allergic to chocolate, seafood, corn; 4% to fish, peanuts, beef, tomatoes, and 2% to milk and chicken. In Mexico, a study of Mexipreval performed on 2013 and 2014, showed that the higher frequency of allergic reactions could be related with milk (44.5%), fruit (25.4%), eggs (21.8%), cereals (19.6%), seafood (13.6%), vegetables (10.3%), nuts (9.2%), and fish (8.2%).
The WHO advice that a first step to protect patients with food allergies lies on the awareness of the public health and food officials, as well as the people participant on food supply and preparation.
To handle the risks of allergens, manufacturers must have wide knowledge of the ingredients and potential contaminants of the products they handle. It is necessary to avoid eating on establishments that can carry a risk, even restaurants can fail to fulfill the necessary guidelines. Also, it is necessary to verify carefully the ingredients on the dishes we eat.
Reviewers: Brenda Giselle Álvarez Rodríguez (Public Health Research Unit), and Cassandra Saldaña Pineda (Knowledge Management Unit).
- Article: “Prevalence of food allergens sensitization and food allergies in a group of allergic Honduran children”. Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol. 2018
- International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN).