Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Parents' perceptions of food intolerance in primary school children.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 294 doi: (Published 04 April 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;294:863
  1. R J Rona,
  2. S Chinn


    In a study of about 7000 children, parents' perceptions were used to examine the prevalence of food intolerance, the types of food implicated, the association of intolerance with diseases, and the social background of those identified as being food intolerant. One hundred and ninety two children (3%) were perceived as being food intolerant, with a further 105 (2%) being classed as intolerant under a less stringent definition of intolerance. For 128 (67%) of these children a doctor was consulted. The pattern of food avoided was very similar in children for whom the decision to exclude certain foods was made by health staff and in those for whom the parents themselves made decisions about their child's diet. A strong association was seen between the mother's level of education and the child being perceived as being food intolerant. Between 20% and 30% of children with a disease associated with food intolerance--for example, eczema--had currently or previously avoided some types of food. The results of this study emphasise the need to develop criteria to tackle the growing demand for National Health Service treatment by parents who believe their child to be food intolerant.