American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

View all recommendations from this society

Released March 3, 2014

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

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 percent 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.


These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician.

How The List Was Created

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) Executive Committee created a task force to lead work on Choosing Wisely consisting of board members, the AAAAI President and Secretary/Treasurer and AAAAI participants in the Joint Task Force on Practice Parameters. Through multiple society publications and notifications, AAAAI members were invited to offer feedback and recommend elements to be included in the list. A targeted email was also sent to an extended group of AAAAI leadership inviting them to participate.

The work group reviewed the submissions to ensure the best science in the specialty was included. Based on this additional members were recruited for their expertise. Suggested elements were considered for appropriateness, relevance to the core of the specialty, potential overuse of resources and opportunities to improve patient care. They were further refined to maximize impact and eliminate overlap, and then ranked in order of potential importance both for the specialty and for the public. Finally, the work group chose its top five recommendations which were then approved by the Executive Committee.

AAAAI’s disclosure and conflict of interest policy can be found at www.aaaai.org.

Sources

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.