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Food intolerance testing kits should only be used with expert advice

People are being warned not to act on the results of the test without advice from a doctor or registered dietitan.

PEOPLE SHOULDN’T RELY on food intolerance test kits, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) said today.

It released a statement saying that products being promoted as food intolerance tests “cannot diagnose food intolerance conditions”. It also advises people not to act on the results of these tests without expert advice from a doctor or registered dietitian.

Following the publication of the report, PSI, the pharmacy regulator, said today it has told pharmacists they should not offer food intolerance testing services to diagnose food intolerance.

The advice comes after the HPRA undertook a review of these products on the market to examine their validity. It says that there is no single test to diagnose food intolerance on the market.

Because of this, it is advising people not to rely on the results of these test kits alone to detect a condition or to remove certain food groups from their diet.

If anyone is suffering from gastrointestinal issues or believes they could be intolerant of a certain type of food they should consult a doctor or dietician. Attempting to self-diagnose a suspected food intolerance using a test kit alone could potentially result in a delay in identifying and treating other medical conditions.

Dr Lorraine Nolan, Chief Executive, HPRA, said that there is no scientifically valid test to detect food intolerance. She said that the only valid and safe way to diagnose food intolerance is to eliminate foods following clinical advice and then reintroduce a suspected food on a phased basis to determine if symptoms return.

“Food intolerance is a term that has emerged to describe various unpleasant conditions such as indigestion and bloating that can occur after eating certain foods. People should not rely on the results of these test kits on their own regardless of how they are labelled and promoted,” she said.

Any examination relating to a person’s ability to digest or ‘tolerate’ foods should be made in careful consultation with a doctor or dietitian. 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.
Removing a range of foods from your diet without expert advice on how this should be managed can result in nutritional deficiencies among vulnerable populations and impaired growth in children which can have important long-term health consequences.

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

It found that these tests will not diagnose intolerance to a certain food type but rather will detect previous exposure to a food.

“While this information may be used to help determine the types of food which a particular person has eaten in the recent past, it does not indicate intolerance,” said the HPRA.

It looked at tests available through certain nutritional, food intolerance and health centres and via certain pharmacies, and also ones available online.

The HPRA consulted widely on this issue with a number of stakeholders including the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the Irish Pharmacy Union, the Irish Food Allergy Network, and other experts.

People who have experienced an adverse effect as a result of using these tests can report this to the HPRA at

Food allergies

The HPRA also said it wants to emphasise that there is a “clear distinction between food intolerance and food allergies as the latter can be potentially life-threatening”.

It says that food intolerance tests have no role in the diagnosis of a food allergy. It also says that a negative food intolerance test result does not mean that someone is not allergic to that food.

Confusing a negative food intolerance test result with a food allergy could pose serious risks if a person then goes on to consume that food type and to have a subsequent reaction.

The HPRA regulates medical devices and monitors their safety and effectiveness once on the market.

More information can be found on the HPRA website.

Read: Most Irish food businesses aren’t giving allergen details and some are even giving incorrect information>

Read: Almost half of people with food allergies develop them in adulthood – US study>

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