US White paper on cost of food allergy

FAIR Health, an independent non-profit in the US that collects data for privately billed health insurance claims, has analysed spending on food allergy claims and published the findings in a white paper.

According to the report, the number of laboratory services associated with diagnoses of anaphylactic food reaction increased 871 per cent from 2007 to 2016, and the amount of billed charges for those services increased 5,390 per cent in the same period.

The study looked at many aspects of food allergy, including geography; anaphylactic food reactions; age; gender; places of service; most common treatments and services; and costs and number of services per patient.

The rise in food allergies varied by locale. From 2007 to 2016, the number of services and procedures for those allergies increased by 70 percent in urban settings and more than doubled in rural areas.

For children, food allergy claims were more common among boys than girls, but among adults the opposite was true. Thirty-four per cent of procedures and services involved a patient older than 18 years.

The report found that while peanuts were the top allergy category for men and boys, peanut allergy did not cost as much as other food allergies. Services and treatments related to a peanut allergy averaged $237 per patient in 2016. That was a quarter of the cost for a milk product allergy, which averaged $1,044 per patient in the same year.

One theory for the high cost of treating milk allergies relates to the high price of milk substitutes, particularly alternative baby formulas.

Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) contributed funding to the white paper.