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Food intolerance tests should not be offered by pharmacists

January 29, 2018

The PSI, the pharmacy regulator, has informed pharmacists that they should not offer food intolerance testing services to diagnose food intolerance. The PSI issued a communication to pharmacists following the publication by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) of a Medical Devices Information Notice, which advises the public and health professionals that there is no single test available to diagnose food intolerance and states that any test which claims to indicate an intolerance to food is of little clinical validity.

Niall Byrne, Registrar of the PSI states: “It is clear from the HPRA notice and from the Food Safety Authority’s (FSAI) advice on food allergy and food intolerance that the only clinically valid method for the diagnosis and treatment of food intolerance is an elimination diet, which should be carried out under the supervision of a registered dietician or medical professional. With regard to all of the products promoted as tests for food intolerance, the HPRA has determined that there is no single test available to diagnose food intolerance and that such test results should not be relied upon for the purpose of a diagnosis or as the basis for dietary change. In the light of this advice, we want to clearly convey this important message to pharmacists.”

“In line with the statutory Code of Conduct for pharmacists, tests or health checks should only be performed by pharmacists or offered in pharmacies where there is an established clinical and scientific evidence base and where the validity, accuracy and reliability of the test can be assured. As regulated healthcare professionals, pharmacists are a trusted source of advice for the public on medicines and health matters in the community and, following today’s publication of the HPRA notice, pharmacists should no longer offer food intolerance testing services to diagnose food intolerance,” he added.

Mr Byrne highlighted the professional role that pharmacists should continue to play in assisting patients with gastrointestinal issues. He added that there are many pharmacy-only medicines that have indications for the relief of gastrointestinal upset or discomfort, and pharmacists have an important professional role in assisting patients in the management of gastrointestinal symptoms, including referral for medical assessment when they believe it is necessary.

The HPRA notice on food intolerance testing was published following market surveillance of food intolerance products available on the Irish market and included consultation with clinical experts to examine the safety and performance of these tests. The FSAI’s leaflet on food hypersensitivities also concludes that diagnosis of either a food allergy or food intolerance should involve expert advice from an appropriate healthcare professional and reiterates that changes to a person’s diet should only be undertaken in consultation with suitably qualified experts.

Read the PSI’s regulatory notice for pharmacists on food intolerance testing.

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