A new study, entitled “Prevalence and Severity of Food Allergies Among U.S. Adults”, provides new insight about just how common food allergies are. While previous studies have looked at the prevalence of childhood food allergies, this one explores the experience of American adults.

The Study and Its Participants
Approximately 40,443 U.S. adults were surveyed via Internet and phone interviews between October 2015 and September 2016. Participants were recruited from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, and also from the non–probability-based Survey Sampling International panel.


  • 51 percent reported having experienced a “severe” food allergy reaction
  • Nearly 50 percent of food-allergic adults had at least one adult on-set food allergy
  • 48 percent developed food allergies as an adult
  • 45.3 percent were allergic to multiple foods
  • 38 percent reported at least one food allergy-related emergency room visit in their lifetime
  • 24 percent reported having a current epinephrine prescription
  • 19 percent believed they had a food allergy, and “self-reported” food allergies were a common theme throughout the study. However;
  • 10.8 percent of the participants had a confirmed food allergy at the time of the survey

Most Common Food Allergies

  1. Shellfish
  2. Milk
  3. Peanut
  4. Tree nut
  5. Fin fish (the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology groups tuna, halibut, and salmon into this category) 

Based on these findings, researchers have concluded that “food allergies are common and severe among U.S. adults, often starting in adulthood.” Also, because some participants believed they had a food allergy when they, in fact, did not, researchers suggest that “it is crucial that adults with suspected food allergy receive appropriate confirmatory testing and counseling to ensure food is not unnecessarily avoided and quality of life is not unduly impaired.”

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. See the entire study at JAMANetwork.com

More on food allergies:
Processors Increasingly Turning to Testing for Allergen Control 
Food Allergies and Celiac Disease 
Sanitation Verification for Allergen Control

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