EHRs May Help in Studying Prevalence of Food Allergies

Electronic health records (EHRs) may help researchers better understand food allergies and intolerances as well as the most affected populations, according to a new study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Recent reports indicate that food allergies are on the rise in the United States. However, very little of this data has been obtained using patients’ EHRs.

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For their study, the researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital sought to determine the prevalence of food allergy and intolerance by assessing the EHRs of more than 2.7 million patients. Food and allergy intolerance data—including allergen group as well as patient sex and racial/ethnic group—was collected at Partners HealthCare between 2000 and 2013 and from multiple community and specialty hospitals and community health centers.

Results showed that, of the total participants, 97,482 (3.6%) had 1 or more food allergies and intolerances. Allergies were highest among females (4.2% vs 2.9%) and Asians (4.3% vs 3.6%).

The most prevalent food allergen groups were shellfish (0.9%), fruit or vegetables (0.7%), dairy (0.5%), and peanuts (0.5%). Among the 103,659 identified reactions to foods, 48.1% were potentially IgE-mediated, and 15.9% were anaphylactic.

About 20% of participants with reported peanut allergy had had a radioallergosorbent test/ImmunoCAP performed; Of those, 57.3% had an IgE level of grade 3 or higher.

“Our findings are consistent with previously validated methods for studying food allergy, suggesting that the EHR's allergy module has the potential to be used for clinical and epidemiological research,” the researchers concluded. “The spectrum of severity observed with food allergy highlights the critical need for more allergy evaluations.”

—Christina Vogt


Acker WW, Plasek JM, Blumenthal KG et al. Prevalence of food allergies and intolerances

documented in electronic health records. J Allergy Clin Immunol. Published online May 31, 2017.