Response Letter: Foods influence childhood behaviour and learning abilities

To Whom It May Concern

With respect to the feature titled “Foods influence childhood behaviour and learning abilities,” which has been published in several newspapers, the Allergy Foundation of South Africa would like to point out the following inaccuracies which are misleading to the reader.

  1. There is no evidence that food allergies are the cause of ADHD, behaviour difficulties, chronic headaches, learning difficulties or autism. This is false information and can lead to unnecessary and potentially detrimental dietary avoidances. Blanket avoidance of important food groups without a proper allergy assessment is not advised.
  2. Some children may have sensory issues around certain food textures and sensitive guts after consumption of certain foods- but these symptoms are most often not related to food allergies, but rather represent digestive issues or possible intolerances.
  3. Suggestions that common behavioural difficulties are food allergy-related can undermine those with true food allergies, lead to unnecessary expense and nutritional compromise. It is of utmost importance to get the diagnosis of food allergies correct by a qualified medical practitioner. The “trial and error” approach of food elimination is inaccurate and potentially detrimental.
  4. In children, food allergies can actually be “caused” by removing foods, which were previously tolerated without obvious allergic responses, from the diet. Therefore, all unnecessary elimination should be avoided.
  5. The IgG tests mentioned in these articles are not a valid method of diagnosing food allergies. Such tests merely check for previous exposure to the food but do NOT tell us whether the food consumption is problematic or not. The Allergy Society of South Africa condemns all “alternative” testing for allergies, as they are not scientifically correct.

We urge the public not to self-diagnose allergies and not to read unchecked articles on food allergies on-line, as this can lead to misdiagnosis and confusion. South Africa has several allergy-trained medical doctors who can help using detailed history-taking and targeted, scientifically valid allergy testing. Scientifically credible information is available online at www.allergyfoundation.co.za.