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Beyond Labelling: What Strategies Do Nut Allergic Individuals Employ to Make Food Choices? A Qualitative Study

Authors: Julie Barnett, Konstantina Vasileiou, M. Hazel Gowland, Monique M. Raats, Jane S. Lucas

PLoS One, Volume 8, Issue 1, 2013

 

Objective: Food labelling is an important tool that assists people with peanut and tree nut allergies to avoid allergens. Nonetheless, other strategies are also developed and used in food choice decision making. In this paper, we examined the strategies that nut allergic individuals deploy to make safe food choices in addition to a reliance on food labelling.

Methods: Three qualitative methods: an accompanied shop, in-depth semi-structured interviews, and the product choice reasoning task – were used with 32 patients that had a clinical history of reactions to peanuts and/or tree nuts consistent with IgE-mediated food allergy. Thematic analysis was applied to the transcribed data.

Results: Three main strategies were identified that informed the risk assessments and food choice practices of nut allergic individuals. These pertained to: (1) qualities of product such as the product category or the country of origin, (2) past experience of consuming a food product, and (3) sensory appreciation of risk. Risk reasoning and risk management behaviours were often contingent on the context and other physiological and socio-psychological needs which often competed with risk considerations.

Conclusions: Understanding and taking into account the complexity of strategies and the influences of contextual factors will allow healthcare practitioners, allergy nutritionists, and caregivers to advise and educate patients more effectively in choosing foods safely. Governmental bodies and policy makers could also benefit from an understanding of these food choice strategies when risk management policies are designed and developed.