The prevalence of PFS and prevalence and characteristics of reported food allergy; a survey of UK adults aged 18–75 incorporating a validated PFS diagnostic questionnaire




Pollen-food syndrome (PFS), a food allergy affecting pollen-sensitized individuals, is likely to be the most prevalent food allergy in adults, estimated to affect 50–90% of people allergic to birch tree pollen.


A validated PFS diagnostic questionnaire (PFSDQ2) was used to determine the prevalence of PFS and also to characterize those who report reactions to foods.


Five UK General practices each sent the PFSDQ2 by post to 2000 patients aged 18–75 years randomly selected from their practice database. The validated questionnaire was accompanied by an additional set of questions to ascertain the demographic of the population, the foods involved and the age of onset.


There were 3590 subjects who returned completed questionnaires, with an average return rate from each practice of 36% (range 22–47%). Of these, 73 were diagnosed with PFS according to the questionnaire (PFS+ve) giving a population prevalence of 2%. A further 482 subjects reported reactions to foods but did not fulfil the diagnostic criteria for PFS. The greatest prevalence of PFS was in the Croydon (SE England) urban practice (4.1%) and the lowest in the Aberdeen (Scotland) urban practice (0.8%) (P < 0.001).The most frequently reported trigger foods were apples, hazelnuts and kiwifruit and the majority of those with PFS first experienced symptoms below the age of 20 years. PFS+ve subjects were also more likely to be female and have a higher socio-economic status than those who did not report reactions to foods.


The UK prevalence of PFS was 2%, although this varied according to the location of the practice population. The majority of PFS+ve subjects first reported symptoms in their teens. The reported age of onset has important implications for the diagnosis of primary and cross-reactive peanut and tree nut allergies in teenagers and young adults. The continuing rise in aeroallergen sensitization is likely to result in an increased frequency of PFS presenting in both primary and secondary care.