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Press Release

Sep 1, 2020

Dermatologists warn against the use of private unvalidated food allergy tests

Individuals do not need to pay for private tests online as allergy testing is available on the NHS

Private food allergy tests may be causing people to follow unnecessary and potentially dangerous dietary restrictions, according to two studies being presented at the Virtual Annual Meeting of the British Association of Dermatologists (September 2020).

The studies show that many companies are not using laboratories with the relevant international accreditation for testing, and that the type of tests being used often lack scientific evidence* to support their use.

This means that the results provided to users may not be accurate and may lead to false representations of an individual’s allergy and intolerance status.

The growing interest around food allergies, and the rise of online shopping, has led to a boom in the number of private food allergy and intolerance tests available. Patients with inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis are understandably keen to understand their personal triggers to help get their condition under control. Particularly in the case of younger children, parents often ask whether certain foods could be causing their child’s eczema to flare.

Researchers of the first study identified 18 brands of online allergy tests and evaluated their quality based on whether the samples are tested in ISO15189-accredited laboratories and the type of test conducted.

ISO15189 accreditation is an international standard for medical testing and calibration laboratories, to demonstrate the quality and reliability of their services. Overall, only one of the 18 companies were found to use an ISO15189-accredited laboratory.

Seventy per cent of these brands perform only IgG testing for food intolerance, which has no scientific evidence to support its validity. Six companies also use an unproven ‘bioresonance’ test of hair samples to identify potential intolerances. As well as this, only one company requested the patient’s clinical history and had the test results reviewed by a physician.

Researchers of the second study identified seven common types of allergy tests that are available online. All but one of these techniques are not scientifically proven methods.

Dr Alice Plant, Dermatology Specialist Registrar at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust and researcher of one of the studies, said:

“Allergy test results require careful interpretation in the context of the patient’s clinical history by a skilled professional for them to be meaningful. Poorly informed health consumers are vulnerable to be misled about their allergy and intolerance status.

“There is a lack of evidence to suggest that certain foods trigger eczema, and we would encourage people to continue with their topical treatments as prescribed by their doctor rather than eliminating foods from their diet without first discussing this with a medical professional. In children with sensitivities, unnecessary dietary exclusions may actually cause a true allergy to develop.”

Holly Barber, spokesperson for the British Association of Dermatologists, said:

“It’s concerning to learn that several of the allergy tests available to purchase online may be unreliable. We would encourage anybody who suspects they have an allergy to visit their GP rather than seeking out tests online as allergy testing is available on the NHS. There is therefore no need for families or individuals to spend money on private tests with varying levels of quality.”


Notes to editors:

*The British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology (BSACI) published information on the evidence for commonly available alternative tests and the use of specific IgE to screen for food allergy in the context of eczema as part of the Choose Wisely campaign to help patients to make informed choices based on the evidence available. You can find this information here.

If using this presentation, please ensure you mention that it was given at the British Association of Dermatologists’ Annual Conference.

The virtual conference will be held in September 2020, and is attended by approximately 1,500 UK and worldwide dermatologists and dermatology nurses.

For more information please contact:

Study details:

“Online allergy testing: enlightening and empowering or confusing and exploitative?”

A.W.Y. Wong, H.E.G. White and A. Shipman

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, Portsmouth, U.K.

“The rise of restrictive eating: commercial food allergy testing and its relevance to the dermatologist”

A. Plant, A. Livesey and A. Shipman

Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, Portsmouth, U.K.

About the British Association of Dermatologists

The British Association of Dermatologists is the central association of practising UK dermatologists. Our aim is to continually improve the treatment and understanding of skin disease. For further information about the charity, visit

The British Association of Dermatologists publishes two world-renowned dermatology journals, both published by Wiley. The British Journal of Dermatology is one of the top dermatology journals in the world, and publishes papers on all aspects of the biology and pathology of the skin.