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Reliability and validity of a maternal food frequency questionnaire designed to estimate consumption of common food allergens


T. Dean, School of Health Sciences and Social Work, University of Portsmouth, St. George's Building, 141 High Street, Portsmouth, PO1 2HY, UK.
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Background  Maternal food intake during pregnancy may influence the development of food hypersensitivity (FHS) in the child. A food frequency questionnaire estimating the frequency with which some of the mains food allergens are consumed was designed and validated.

Materials and methods  Pregnant women were recruited at the ante-natal clinic of St. Mary's Hospital, Isle of Wight, UK. A food frequency questionnaire was developed and validated by comparing responses to information recorded in 7 days food diaries. The reliability of the food frequency questionnaire was evaluated by asking women to complete the questionnaire on two separate occasions at 30 and 36 weeks gestation.

Results  Fifty-seven women completed the validity study and 91 women completed the reliability study. For both validity and reliability, questions with dichotomous response categories showed the highest level of agreement. Frequency of intake of foods commonly ‘hidden’ in foods produced the lowest validity and reliability scores. In the validity study responses to the food frequency questionnaire identically matched information recorded in the food diaries 80% of the time, on average. In the reliability study, responses were identical on both questionnaires 85% of the time on average.

Conclusion  In this study a food frequency questionnaire estimating the frequency with which some of the main food allergens are consumed during pregnancy was designed and validated. This food frequency questionnaire could be used in future studies to assess the role of maternal food intake in the development of FHS in the infant.