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Volume 409: debated on Friday 18 July 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to hold a detailed analysis of the causes of the increase in allergies. [124223]

The Department of Health is currently doing no analysis into the increase of different types of allergy. We are aware that allergic disease is one of the major causes of illness in the developed world and that incidence is on the increase. A range of research projects on the epidemiology of allergies, however, have recently been completed or are still on-going.The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) was formed in 1991. Phase One measured the prevalence of childhood asthma, hayfever and atopic eczema for international comparisons. Phase Two began in 1998 and involves more intensive studies in a smaller number of countries. The Department of Health funded the UK contribution to Phase Two.The Food Standards Agency is currently funding a £0.5 million project which aims to establish how common food allergy is among children between birth and 15 years of age. King's College London is leading a £2.1 million EU-funded prospective study of the incidence and prognosis of allergy, allergic disease and low lung function in adults living in Europe.The University of Manchester is leading a £1.2 million EU-funded investigation of the prevalence, pathogenesis, treatment and prevention of sun allergy across Europe. Sun-provoked skin reactions are one of the commonest forms of allergy.

A recent report from the Royal College of Physicians called 'Allergy the Unmet Need, A Blueprint for Better Patient Care' noted that allergies including asthma, rhinitis, eczema, food allergy and drug allergy are becoming increasingly common.