The prevalence of food allergies in America is estimated to be around 8% in children and somewhere less than 10% in the populations as a whole. The number of people with food allergies appears to be growing, but explanations for the increase are uncertain, and studies are complicated by inconsistent case definitions. According to a study released in 2013 by the CDC, food allergies among children 0 – 17 years of age increased from 3.4% to 5.1%, an increase of 50%, between 1997 and 2011.
The nine most common food allergens, which account for 90% of food allergies, are:
- Tree nuts (for example: almonds, walnuts, or pecans)
- Fish (for example: bass, flounder, or cod)
- Crustacean shellfish (for example: lobster, crab, or shrimp)
- Sesame (new for 2023)
When an individual eats or drinks something containing their allergen, they can have a reaction anywhere from itching and tingling, all the way to severe and potentially fatal reactions such as anaphylaxis involving circulatory collapse and cardiac arrest. There is currently no preventive treatment or cure for food allergies; only strict avoidance will prevent a reaction.