Volume 6 Supplement 3

Fifth Annual Research Conference: Innovation from Cell to Society

Open Access

Estimating the prevalence of milk, egg, and wheat allergies in the Canadian population

  • Lianne Soller1,
  • Joseph Fragapane1,
  • Moshe Ben-Shoshan2,
  • Daniel Harrington3,
  • Reza Alizadehfar2,
  • Lawrence Joseph1, 4,
  • Yvan St Pierre1,
  • Samuel Godefroy5,
  • Susan Elliott3 and
  • Ann Clarke1, 6
Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology20106(Suppl 3):P37


Published: 26 November 2010


Milk and egg are the most common allergens in childhood. Recent reports also indicate that wheat may contribute to a significant number of food-related anaphylactic events. However, there have so far been no Canadian studies to assess the prevalence of these three important allergens. Our objective was to estimate the prevalence of milk, egg, and wheat allergies in the Canadian population.

Materials and methods

We performed a cross-sectional, nationwide, telephone survey adapted from a questionnaire used by Sicherer in the US to assess the prevalence of other food allergies [1, 2]. Telephone numbers were randomly selected from the electronic white pages and an information letter was mailed to households. Respondents were eligible to participate if they were 18 or older, were living in the household, and appeared to have no language-mental-hearing barriers to understanding the questions. To optimize response rates and minimize selection bias, up to ten attempts were made to contact households, calling was done on different days and at different times during the day. Individuals were asked whether they had an allergy to milk, egg, and/or wheat.


Of 10,596 households surveyed, 3666 responded, representing 9667 individuals (35% response rate). Of these, 202 (2.09% [95% CI, 1.81,2.39%]) self-reported an allergy to milk, 77 (0.8% [0.63,0.99%]) to egg, and 74 (0.77% [0.6,0.96%]) to wheat. Egg allergy was more prevalent in children than adults, and wheat allergy was more prevalent in adults than children. Both egg and wheat allergies were more prevalent in households with a post-secondary graduate. Regional differences between allergies to milk, wheat and egg were also evident, with Quebec showing a lower prevalence compared to elsewhere in Canada. The unusually high prevalence of milk and wheat allergy in adults is not consistent with the literature [3, 4], and may be due to participant confusion with lactose intolerance and celiac disease, respectively. Currently, our research team is contacting participants from the survey in order to validate their report of allergy to milk, egg and/or wheat.


This is the first nationwide Canadian study to determine the prevalence of milk, egg, and wheat; three allergens which affect many Canadians and may cause life-threatening anaphylactic reactions. Because of the potential danger associated with having a food allergy, it is crucial to undertake novel research studies to better understand the natural history, diagnosis, and management of food allergy so that we may improve the quality of life of allergic Canadians.

Authors’ Affiliations

Division of Clinical Epidemiology, McGill University Health Centre
Division of Pediatric Allergy and Clinical Immunology, McGill University Health Centre
School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McGill University
Food Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch, Health Canada
Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, McGill University Health Centre


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  2. Sicherer SH, Munoz-Furlong A, Sampson HA: Prevalence of seafood allergy in the United States determined by a random telephone survey. JACI. 2004, 114: 159-165.Google Scholar
  3. Keet CA, Matsui EC, Dhillon G, Lenehan P, Paterakis M, Wood RA: The natural history of wheat allergy. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2009, 102: 410-415. 10.1016/S1081-1206(10)60513-3.PubMedView ArticleGoogle Scholar
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© Soller et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2010

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd.