Choosing Wisely:

Don’t perform food IgE testing without a history consistent with potential IgE-mediated food allergy.

Rationale and Comments: False or clinically irrelevant positive allergy tests for foods are frequent. Indiscriminate screening results in inappropriate avoidance of foods and wastes healthcare resources. IgE testing for specific foods must be driven by a history of signs or symptoms consistent with an IgE-mediated reaction after eating a particular food. Ordering IgE testing in individuals who do not have a history consistent with or suggestive for food allergy based on history frequently reveals positive tests that are unlikely to be clinically relevant. Testing, when done, should be limited to suspected foods. The diagnostic utility of IgE testing for specific foods is optimal when a history compatible with or suggestive for the diagnosis of food allergy is present. In the absence of a compatible or suggestive history, the pre-test probability for a diagnosis of food allergy is low and a positive skin or in vitro IgE test does not establish a diagnosis of food allergy. Skin testing or serum testing for specific-IgE to food antigens has excellent sensitivity and high negative predictive value, but has low specificity and low positive predictive value. Considering that 50 to 90% of presumed cases of food allergy do not reflect IgE-mediated (allergic) pathogenesis and may instead reflect food intolerance or symptoms not causally associated with food consumption, ordering panels of food tests leads to many incorrectly identified food allergies and inappropriate recommendations to avoid foods that are positive on testing.
Sponsoring Organizations:
  • American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
  • Sources:
  • Expert consensus
  • Disciplines:
  • Allergy and immunologic
  • References: • Bernstein IL, Li JT, Bernstein DI, Hamilton R, Spector SL, Tan R, Sicherer S, Golden DB, Khan DA, Nicklas RA, Portnoy JM, Blessing-Moore J, Cox L, Lang DM, Oppenheimer J, Randolph CC, Schuller DE, Tilles SA, Wallace DV, Levetin E, Weber R; American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Allergy diagnostic testing: an updated practice parameter. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2008 Mar;100(3 Suppl 3):S1–148.
    • NIAID-Sponsored Expert Panel, Boyce JA, Assa’ad A, Burks AW, Jones SM, Sampson HA, Wood RA, Plaut M, Cooper SF, Fenton MJ, Arshad SH, Bahna SL, Beck LA, Byrd-Bredbenner C, Camargo CA Jr, Eichenfield L, Furuta GT, Hanifin JM, Jones C, Kraft M, Levy BD, Lieberman P, Luccioli S, McCall KM, Schneider LC, Simon RA, Simons FE, Teach SJ, Yawn BP, Schwaninger JM. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of food allergy in the United States: report of the NIAID-sponsored expert panel. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010 Dec;126 (6 Suppl):S1–58.

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