At Allergy New Zealand, we are committed to providing all New Zealand children and their families with the support they need to thrive and live full lives. We understand that coming together and sharing food is part of who we are and what we do. Yet, most information and advice provided on managing food allergy assumes a westernised lifestyle and diet, taking little account of New Zealand’s cultural diversity.
As a result, the burden of food allergy and food-induced anaphylaxis falls most heavily on some of our minority populations (evidence below). While there may be no current cure or approach to preventing food allergy, there is still much we can do.
We need a better understanding of the true prevalence of food allergy in New Zealand, and in particular, how prevalence rates differ between ethnicities. Next, we need to work together to explore what is needed to ensure all New Zealand children and their families feel free to safely participate in cultural activities that involve food and food practices. To achieve this, we will need more support.
For now, this is what the most recent research says:
Almost 1 out of 10 NZ children have a food allergy
Food allergies are alarmingly common in New Zealand children. According to the most recent Growing Up in New Zealand (GUINZ) data, 9 per cent of children at 8 years of age have a food allergy, as reported by their mother, with 67 per cent of them receiving a doctor’s diagnosis. Peanut, egg, tree nuts, milk, and wheat/gluten are the most commonly reported food allergies.
Higher rates of food allergy in certain populations
Food allergy is more common in Asian (13 per cent) and Pacific (10 per cent) children compared with European (eight per cent) and Māori (eight per cent). At the same time, Asian and Pacific children have higher rates of hospitalisations compared to European and Māori children for food-triggered anaphylaxis.
Why are our rates so high?
Data from the study showed that self-reported rates of food allergy were almost twice as much as we would expect in this age group. Possible reasons for this could include:
Where to from here:
Penny Jorgensen, Allergy Advisor, Allergy New Zealand, and
Dr Samantha Marsh, PhD, and Board member of Allergy New Zealand
16 July 2021
 Speakman et al, Paediatric food-induced anaphylaxis hospital presentations in New Zealand. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health (2017)
 The Epidemiology of Food Allergy in the Global Context. Wenyin Loh and Mimi L. K. Tang 2018