Recent studies suggest an increased prevalence of food-induced allergy and an increased incidence of food-related anaphylaxis. However, prevalence estimates of food allergies vary considerably between studies.
To determine the prevalence of peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish, and sesame allergy in Canada.
Using comparable methodology to Sicherer et al in the United States in 2002, we performed a cross-Canada, random telephone survey. Food allergy was defined as perceived (based on self-report), probable (based on convincing history or self-report of physician diagnosis), or confirmed (based on history and evidence of confirmatory tests).
Of 10,596 households surveyed in 2008 and 2009, 3666 responded (34.6% participation rate), of which 3613 completed the entire interview, representing 9667 individuals. The prevalence of perceived peanut allergy was 1.00% (95% CI, 0.80%-1.20%); tree nut, 1.22% (95% CI, 1.00%-1.44%); fish, 0.51% (95% CI, 0.37%-0.65%); shellfish, 1.60% (95% CI, 1.35%-1.86%); and sesame, 0.10% (95% CI, 0.04%-0.17%). The prevalence of probable allergy was 0.93% (95% CI, 0.74%-1.12%); 1.14% (95% CI, 0.92%-1.35%); 0.48% (95% CI, 0.34%-0.61%); 1.42% (95% CI, 1.18%-1.66%); and 0.09% (95% CI, 0.03%-0.15%), respectively. Because of the infrequency of confirmatory tests and the difficulty in obtaining results if performed, the prevalence of confirmed allergy was much lower.
This is the first nationwide Canadian study to determine the prevalence of severe food allergies. Our results indicate disparities between perceived and confirmed food allergy that might contribute to the wide range of published prevalence estimates.
Erratum In: J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011 Mar;127(3):840Elliot, Susan J [corrected to Elliott, Susan J]
Poor response rates in prevalence surveys can lead to nonresponse bias thereby compromising the validity of prevalence estimates. We conducted a telephone survey of randomly selected households to estimate the prevalence of food allergy in the 10 Canadian provinces between May 2008 and March 2009 (the SCAAALAR study: Surveying Canadians to Assess the Prevalence of Common Food Allergies and Attitudes towards Food LAbeling and Risk). A household response rate of only 34.6% was attained, and those of lower socioeconomic status, lower education and new Canadians were underrepresented. We are now attempting to target these vulnerable populations in the SPAACE study (Surveying the Prevalence of Food Allergy in All Canadian Environments) and are evaluating strategies to increase the response rate. Although the success of incentives to increase response rates has been demonstrated previously, no studies have specifically examined the use of unconditional incentives in these vulnerable populations in a telephone survey. The pilot study will compare response rates between vulnerable Canadian populations receiving and not receiving an incentive.
Randomly selected households were randomly assigned to receive either a $5 incentive or no incentive. The between group differences in response rates and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated. The response rates for the incentive and non-incentive groups were 36.1% and 28.7% respectively, yielding a between group difference of 7.4% (-0.7%, 15.6%).
Although the wide CI precludes definitive conclusions, our results suggest that unconditional incentives are effective in vulnerable populations for telephone surveys.
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