What is a controlled food challenge?

In a controlled environment such as an allergist’s office , or rarely, the intensive care hospital unit, the doctor (usually a board-certified allergist) may conduct a food challenge test to determine if a food allergy exists or to confirm a suspected food allergy.

Samples of the suspected offending food may be mixed with another food or may be disguised as an ingredient in another food. These food preparation techniques are used to prevent undue influence on the outcome of the test (if the person recognizes the food by sight or taste). Another method is to have you take a capsule containing the allergen.

You eat the food or take the capsule under strict supervision. After eating the food or taking the capsule, you will be monitored to see if a reaction occurs.

The ideal way to perform the food challenge test is as a "double-blind, placebo-controlled test." With this method, neither the allergist nor the patient is aware of which capsule, or food, contains the suspected allergen. In order for the test to be effective, you must also take capsules or eat food that does not contain the allergen. This will help the allergist make sure the reaction, if any, being observed is due to the allergen and not some other factor.

Someone with a history of severe reactions cannot participate in a food challenge test. In addition, multiple food allergies are difficult to evaluate with this test.

Since this test takes a lot of time to perform, it is costly and done infrequently. This type of testing is generally used when the doctor needs to confirm or eliminate specific food allergens.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 7/18/2014... index#9544