Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 241–249

Food Allergy in Africa: Myth or Reality?

  • Shiang-Ju Kung
  • Andrew P. Steenhoff
  • Claudia Gray

DOI: 10.1007/s12016-012-8341-z

Cite this article as:
Kung, SJ., Steenhoff, A.P. & Gray, C. Clinic Rev Allerg Immunol (2014) 46: 241. doi:10.1007/s12016-012-8341-z


Food allergy has been traditionally perceived as being rare in Africa. However, the prevalence of other allergic manifestations such as asthma and atopic dermatitis continue to rise in the higher-income African countries. Since the food allergy epidemic in westernized countries has lagged behind that of allergic respiratory conditions, we hypothesize that food allergy is increasing in Africa. This article systematically reviews the evidence for food allergy in Africa, obtained through searching databases including PubMed, Medline, MD Consult, and scholarly Google. Articles are divided into categories based on strength of methodological diagnosis of food allergy. Information was found for 11 African countries: Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe. Most studies reflect sensitization to food or self-reported symptoms. However, a few studies had more stringent diagnostic testing that is convincing for food allergy, mostly conducted in South Africa. Apart from the foods that commonly cause allergy in westernized countries, other regionally significant or novel food allergens may include pineapple (Ghana), okra (Nigeria), and mopane worm (Botswana). Food allergy is definitely an emerging disease in Africa and resources need to be diverted to study, diagnose, treat, and prevent this important disease.


Food allergyAfricaReviewHygiene hypothesis

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shiang-Ju Kung
    • 1
    • 2
  • Andrew P. Steenhoff
    • 3
    • 4
  • Claudia Gray
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of PaediatricsUniversity of BotswanaGaboroneBotswana
  2. 2.Division of Allergy and Clinical ImmunologyChildren’s Hospital of PhiladelphiaPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Division of Infectious DiseasesChildren’s Hospital of PhiladelphiaPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.Botswana-UPenn PartnershipGaboroneBotswana
  5. 5.Asthma and Allergy ClinicRed Cross Children’s HospitalCape TownSouth Africa
  6. 6.Vincent Palotti HospitalCape TownSouth Africa