food allergy

How Many US Adults Actually Have Food Allergies?

Although nearly 1 in 5 American adults believe they have food allergies, new data published in JAMA Network Open suggest approximately 1 in 10 American adults are actually food-allergic.

“[T]hese findings 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 authors of the study wrote.

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Ruchi S Gupta, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics and medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and colleagues surveyed 40,443 adults from NORC at the University of Chicago’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel and from the non-probability-based Survey Sampling International (SSI) panel.

Of these participants, 51.2% of AmeriSpeak panelists and 5.5% of SSI panelists completed the survey (n = 7210 and 33,233, respectively).

Shellfish, milk, peanut, tree nut, and fin fish were among the most common self-reported allergies (2.9%, 1.9%, 1.8%, 1.2%, and 0.9%, respectively). Data indicated that an estimated 10.8% of US adults had a convincing food allergy, despite that 19.0% reported having one.

Further, the researchers found that among food allergic adults:

  • 51.1% had experienced a severe food allergy reaction.
  • 45.3% had multiple food allergies.
  • 48.0% had developed food allergies during adulthood.
  • 24.0% reported having a current epinephrine prescription.
  • 38.3% reported at least 1 food allergy-related visit to the emergency department in their lifetime.

—Christina Vogt


Gupta RS, Warren CM, Smith BM, et al. Prevalence and severity of food allergies among US adults. JAMA Network Open. 2019;2(1):e185630. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.5630.