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The Prevalence of Food Allergy and Weaning Practices in a Birth Cohort of UK Infants

Institutions
University of Southampton
Start date
2005
End date
2009
Objective

This project is part of a large-scale European Union project called EuroPrevall, which is being carried out under the European Commission's 6th Framework research programme with the overall aim of improving the quality of life of those with food allergy. Part of EuroPrevall is concerned with gathering accurate information from across Europe on the patterns of prevalence of food allergies in infants, children and adults. Project T07046 forms the UK part of EuroPrevall which is collecting data on the prevalence of food allergies from birth to two years of age. Pregnant women are being recruited onto the study so as to create a birth cohort of over 1200 babies, who will be followed from birth to 2 years of age. At recruitment, parents will be asked to complete a detailed questionnaire from which data on their allergic and dietary history as well as on a variety of other relevant environmental and experiential factors will be gathered. A further questionnaire will be completed at one and two years of age to collect information on the child's health, environmental and dietary exposures. Any infant developing signs of a food allergy during the study will be assessed in clinic using validated and standardised protocols to establish if they have a food allergy or not. For every symptomatic child on the study, 2 control children will be recruited from the cohort and followed in the same way.

In addition to the above, and unique to the UK birth cohort, detailed prospective information will be collected on the child's dietary intake from birth to 12 months of age, via a diary record. This will enable the researchers to investigate the relationship between early infant diet and the development of food allergy. In particular, they will conduct dietary pattern analysis on the weaning data obtained and will explore the relationships between such parameters as timing of solids introduction and length of breastfeeding on development of food allergy by two years of age.

More information

Background: There is currently a lack of reliable data on the actual, as opposed to reported, prevalence of food allergies in the UK, especially among children. Previous attempts to establish prevalence have not always been representative of the general population, have used different endpoints and diagnostic criteria, or have been based on adults rather than children. This makes them difficult to interpret and compare. There is therefore a real need for robust studies using validated methods and appropriate diagnostic criteria to establish the true prevalence of food allergies in UK children.

There is also a need to improve our understanding of the current weaning practices of mothers in the UK, and to understand what influence, if any, these weaning practices, and in particular the timing of introduction of allergenic foods (e.g. peanuts, eggs, milk, wheat) may have on the developing immune system and the later development of food sensitisation and food allergy. Such information would assist the Agency in ensuring our dietary advice to prospective mothers is evidence based and appropriate.

Funding Source
Food Standards Agency
Project source
View this project
Project number
T07046
Categories
Sanitation and Quality Standards
Bacterial Pathogens
Commodities
Nuts, Seeds