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The dilemma of allergy to food additives

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Objective:

To provide a brief summary on food additives and to outline a practical approach for evaluating subjects suspected of having reactions to food additives.

Data Sources:

Information was derived from selected reviews and original articles published in peer-reviewed journals, supplemented by the clinical experience of the authors.

Study Selection:

Priority was given to studies that used blinded, placebo controlled, oral challenges to confirm adverse reactions to food additives. In addition, selected, appropriately evaluated case reports were included.

Results:

A large number of food additives are widely used in the food industry. Allergic reactions to additives seem to be rare but are very likely underdiagnosed, primarily due to a low index of suspicion. A wide variety of symptoms to food additives have been reported, but a cause-and-effect relationship has not been well documented in the majority of cases.

Conclusion:

Reactions to food additives should be suspected in patients who report symptoms related to multiple foods or to a certain food when commercially prepared but not when home made. It is also prudent to investigate food additives in subjects considered to have “idiopathic” reactions. Except for a limited number of natural additives, there is a small role for skin tests or in vitro testing. Oral challenge, in stages, with commonly used additives is the definitive procedure for detecting the offending agent. Once the specific additive is identified, management is strict avoidance, which can be difficult.
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Keywords: Food additives; food allergy; food dyes; food intolerance; food preservatives; spices; sulfiting agents

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2018

More about this publication?
  • Allergy and Asthma Proceedings is a peer reviewed publication dedicated to distributing timely scientific research regarding advancements in the knowledge and practice of allergy, asthma and immunology. Its primary readership consists of allergists and pulmonologists.

    The goal of the Proceedings is to publish articles with a predominantly clinical focus which directly impact quality of care for patients with allergic disease and asthma.

    Featured topics include asthma, rhinitis, sinusitis, food allergies, allergic skin diseases, diagnostic techniques, allergens, and treatment modalities. Published material includes peer-reviewed original research, clinical trials and review articles.

    Articles marked "F" offer free full text for personal noncommercial use only.

    The journal is indexed in Thomson Reuters Web of Science and Science Citation Index Expanded, plus the National Library of Medicine's PubMed service.
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