Food Allergies: The Facts

Updated: Feb 22, 2019

Food allergies are on the rise.

It is thought that rates of food allergy in children may have increased by 50% over the past 10 years. Studies have shown that 10% of children under 1 year of age have food allergies and it is thought that 4-8% of children under 5 have food allergies. Food allergies may effect around 2% of adults.

What is causing the increase?

The short answer is no one really knows for certain. Some possible ideas include a lack of exposure to germs as we are now living in a much cleaner environment, mothers gut health during pregnancy and vitamin D levels. Research studies looking into the cause of food allergies are ongoing.

How does an allergic reaction occur?

Food allergies are caused by the body’s immune system reacting to a protein in food. When the food is eaten, or in some you are exposed to the food, the body treats the protein component like a foreign particle invading the body and begins an immune response. This may result in:

· itchy rash, eczema, hives

· vomiting, diarrhoea,

· swelling, particularly around the eyes and mouth

· infant colic, reflux and failure to thrive.

Symptoms usually occur (although not always) quickly after eating or being exposed to the allergen and a tiny amount can be all that’s required to cause symptoms.

In severe cases consuming a food allergen may result in life threatening symptoms such as breathing difficulties and/or a sudden drop in blood pressure. This is called anaphylaxis and requires urgent medical attention.

What are the most common foods that cause allergies?

The most common foods causing allergy in New Zealand are cow’s milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy. Foods containing these or those that have these as an ingredient make up 90% of all allergies. Childhood allergies are most commonly to egg, dairy, tree nuts, peanuts, fish or shellfish or a combination of these. Most will be grown out of by the age of 5 however 4 out of 5 children are likely to have a peanut allergy for life and a tree nut allergy may also not be grown out of. Adult food allergies are most commonly tree nut, peanut, fish or shell fish or a combination of these. These remain life long.

How is a diagnosis made?

It is important that if you suspect a food allergy that you consult a doctor first. This will help to rule out any other medical condition that may be causing your symptoms. Your doctor can request a skin prick test or blood tests to confirm a suspected food allergy.

More information on food allergies can also be found at:

· Allergy New Zealand

· Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

How can we help you?

If you have a food allergy use our Food Finder to search for supermarket foods that are right for you. Simply select the food allergens you wish to avoid, choose the product category you are looking for and instantly see what foods meet your needs. No more hours spent at the supermarket wondering what you can eat. We have done the hard work for you.

If you need further guidance, specific to you or your family’s needs please contact us at to arrange your Dietitian appointment.

© 2018 by Allergy Well Ltd

  • White LinkedIn Icon
  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Twitter Icon
  • White Instagram Icon