Warning over food intolerance tests

The country’s health products’ watchdog has said food intolerance tests are clinically invalid and nobody should act on the results of the tests without expert advice from a medical expert.

The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) said it had carried out a review of food intolerance test products currently on the market to examine their validity, sparked by their increased availability in recent years, but found there was no single test to diagnose food intolerance.

It also advised people not to rely on the results of test kits alone to detect a condition or to remove certain food groups from their diet.

The finding prompted the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI), which regulates the pharmacy sector, to advise pharmacists they should not offer food intolerance testing services to diagnose food intolerance.

The HPRA’s scientific review included commonly-used test kits such as immunoglobulin G (IgG) tests which are based on a blood sample.

It found that while the tests will not diagnose intolerance to a certain food type they will detect previous exposure to a food. The review included test kits available in some pharmacies as well as ones that can be bought online.

HPRA chief executive Dr Lorraine Nolan said: “People should not rely on the results of these test kits on their own regardless of how they are labelled and promoted.

"Any examination relating to a person’s ability to digest or ‘tolerate’ foods should be made in careful consultation with a doctor or dietician. It should not be based on these tests alone as to do so could lead to a misdiagnosis or the removal of important nutrients in the diet.”

A HPRA spokesman said EU legislation due to come into force in the coming years would replace outdated regulations and allow the HPRA more power to address issues around such products or to place restrictions on them.

Stakeholders consulted as part of the HPRA review included the Irish Pharmacy Union, the Irish Food Allergy Network and the PSI.

Niall Byrne, registrar of the PSI, said: “It is clear from the HPRA notice and from the Food Safety Authority’s advice on food allergy and food intolerance that the only clinically valid method for the diagnosis and treatment of food intolerance is an elimination diet, which should be carried out under the supervision of a registered dietician or medical professional.”


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