• Food allergy;
  • peanuts;
  • consumption patterns;
  • focus groups


Rates of peanut allergy in the Western world have increased over the last 30 years, although it is unclear why. While eating behaviours are likely to be connected to allergy prevalence, the precise relevant factors are uncertain. This study aimed to investigate dietary differences and changes in dietary habits in peanut consumption (in apparent and hidden forms) in four different countries (Bulgaria, Poland, Spain, UK), specifically chosen because of their different ‘peanut experiences’. Focus groups revealed a common perception that dietary habits have become less healthy, with more consumption of processed foods and an increase in snacking. In addition, ethnic cuisine was perceived to have had an important impact on European eating habits, while participants identified an increase in consumption of more ‘exotic’ forms of peanuts and their products. These findings point to an increase in exposure to peanuts, particularly in hidden forms, that superficially parallels increased prevalence rates. However, it was also clear that participants lacked knowledge about the composition of food and non-food products. The dietary trends identified here thus warrant further quantitative investigation, particularly in the context of differential national patterns of allergy prevalence – data on which is currently being gathered within the EC-funded EuroPrevall project.