A systematic review of infant feeding food allergy prevention guidelines – can we AGREE?

Sandra L. Vale, Monique Lobb, Merryn J. Netting, Kevin Murray, Rhonda Clifford, Dianne E. Campbell, Sandra M. Salter

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Food allergy is a significant issue worldwide, particularly in Westernised countries. There is no clear explanation why food allergy appears to have increased so rapidly in recent years, particularly in young children, hence ongoing research to identify effective primary prevention strategies. Food allergy prevention guidelines for health professionals have been developed based on existing clinical trial evidence for effective translation and implementation. As these guidelines underpin clinical practice, it is important to ensure robust processes of development. We conducted a systematic review to identify food allergy prevention guidelines for health professional use; to compare the recommendations made by the identified guideline documents; and to assess the quality of the identified guideline documents. We searched Medline, EMBASE, CINAHL, Scopus, Global Health and Guidelines International Network for the period 1990 to 13 August 2019, to identify articles referring to English-language food allergy prevention guidelines or the guidelines themselves. A grey literature search of Google Scholar and reference checking was also undertaken. The guidelines were compared for recommendation similarities and differences. An Appraisal Guidelines for Research and Evaluation (AGREE II) appraisal was undertaken to assess guideline quality. The electronic database search yielded 1121 publications and reference checking identified an additional 16 publications. After title, abstract and full text screening, data extraction was undertaken on 156 publications and with additional reference checking, 28 food allergy prevention guidelines and advice documents were identified. Comparison of the recommendations within the guidelines and advice documents indicated the greatest variation in recommendations related to exclusive breastfeeding and timing of solid food introduction. Eight of the 10 guidelines and none of the 18 advice documents met the quality threshold set by the reviewers. Overall, documents specifically termed “guidelines” scored better than advice documents when assessed using the AGREE II tool. Variation in recommendations may create confusion for health professionals and result in inconsistent advice being provided to parents, and less translation of the evidence into actual food allergy reduction in the population. Appraisal using the AGREE II tool identified that there is considerable room for improvement in the development of guidelines and advice documents for food allergy prevention. The AGREE II appraisal identified common areas of poorer quality development and/or documentation of processes to inform future guideline development. Based on this study, we recommend the use of validated guideline development tools, to direct food allergy prevention guideline review or development. Use of the AGREE II tool, to direct the review and development of guidelines, is very likely to improve guideline quality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100550
JournalWorld Allergy Organization Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


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