The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is investigating why food allergy rates in the Washington, D.C. and Maryland areas are several percentage points higher, by population, than in the rest of the country.

With a 50 percent increase in food allergy rates in the last two decades, the CDC has become concerned enough to fund investigations and release a guide to assist schools in dealing with a rising population of students allergic to foods such as peanuts and eggs.

Ranking food allergy populations

Dr. Ruchi Gupta of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Lurie Childrens’ Hospital ranked states in the U.S. for food allergy rates by population percentage.

Maryland and the District of Columbia ranked highest, followed by New Jersey, Florida, Nevada, Georgia and Alaska. The study, published recently, is the first of its kind to rank food allergy populations by ZIP code. The study found that the more heavily populated the area (urban vs. rural), the higher the rate of food allergies per person. Gupta’s next study will focus on that aspect, he recently told attendees at a Food Allergy Research and Education conference.

“There are a lot of theories,” said Gupta. “It could be what we’re eating, a lot of pesticides and GMOs (genetically modified organism). There’s also a hygiene hypothesis. Another common theory is exposure. Children on farms are exposed to animals, we see less allergies, asthma, eczema there.”

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