Background: The epidemiological surveys in children and adults of the EU-funded multidisciplinary Integrated Project EuroPrevall, launched in June 2005, were designed to estimate the currently unknown prevalence of food allergy and exposure to known or suspected risk factors for food allergy across Europe. We describe the protocol for the epidemiological surveys in children and adults. This protocol provides specific instructions on the sampling strategy, the use of questionnaires, and collection of blood samples for immunological analyses.
Methods: The surveys were performed as multi-centre, cross-sectional studies in general populations. Case–control studies were nested within these surveys. The studies in children aged 7–10 years and adults aged 20–54 years were undertaken in eight centres representing different social and climatic regions in Europe.
Results: After a community-based survey collecting basic information on adverse reactions to foods, all those stating they had experienced such reactions, as well as of a random sample of those stating ‘no reactions’ to foods, completed a detailed questionnaire on potential risks and exposures. Also a blood sample was taken to allow serological analysis to establish patterns of food and aeroallergen sensitization. We also included a questionnaire to schools on their preparedness for dealing with food allergy amongst pupils. Subjects reporting adverse reactions to foods and sensitized to the same food(s) were called in for a full clinical evaluation that included a double blind placebo controlled food challenge (DBPCFC), following a protocol which is described in detail elsewhere.
Conclusions: The outcome of these studies will help to improve our understanding of several important aspects of food allergies in the European Community, providing for more well-informed policies and effective measures of disease prevention, diagnosis and management.