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Food allergy sufferers 'worst served' by medicine.

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A review of research into the affliction found that up to three in ten people claim to have a food allergy of some sort, but blind testing reveals that fewer than ten per cent actually has one.

People were found to be avoiding certain foods because they incorrectly suspected they were allergic to them, while many parents refused to give their children certain foods even though most will overcome their allergies as they grow older.

The research, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is the first step in a plan by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to set out criteria for the diagnosis and treatment of patients next month.

The most common allergies are responses to cow's milk, egg, peanuts, fish and shellfish.

According to the review, 3.5 per cent of people claim to be allergic to cow's milk, while testing suggested the figure was just 0.9 per cent.

However, with peanut allergies, the number who claimed to be allergic, 0,75 per cent, was exactly the same proportion revealed by testing.

Results showed that part of the problem was a lack of understanding of the difference between a food allergy – a response to food by the immune system – and a food intolerance, which may be caused by substances within the food or by a psychological trigger.

Dr Pamela Ewan, consultant allergist at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, told The Independent: "The chaos is massive in the UK. Doctors untrained in allergy are having to pick up cases in gastroenterology clinics, asthma clinics, dermatology clinics.

"People get the wrong advice because the tests are not understood. The key problem is that we haven't got enough people who understand allergy. There are 30 consultants nationwide and just 12 training posts, not even enough to replace those who are leaving."

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