British children are being put on restrictive diets for no reason other than their parents' fear of allergies, a group of scientists have said.
The researchers put this down to parents, mainly from the middle classes, purchasing home-testing kits that have no scientific basis, reported The Times.
Unscientific results were leading families to prevent their children eating wheat, nuts, eggs or milk in the belief that they had an allergy.
However, the scientists, including representatives of the British Society for Immunology, said that an intolerance was not an allergy. Sufferers can often still consume small amounts of the foods.
Tracey Brown, director of the charity Sense about Science, told The Times Cheltenham Science Festival: "It's a really strange phenomenon that, in the UK, we see the rise of conditions in children that indicate malnutrition in classes of people in society where you really wouldn't expect it.
"Parents are cutting out major food groups in their children, which is causing malnutrition in socioeconomic groups A to C [the middle classes]. That's a really worrying situation."
She added: "Our concern about allergy seems to outstrip the real clinical existence of it. You see varying rates of allergies between countries. We've seen tenfold increase of allergies but some of that is self-reported."
Brown pointed out the class difference in reporting children's allergies: "You can't help but notice that in a nursery school in Dulwich [a leafy south east London suburb], children come out saying 'why haven't I got an allergy?' because they appear to be the only one. Whereas you don't get that appearing in Macclesfield [in north west England]."
Paul Seddon, consultant paediatric allergist at the Alexandra Children's Hospital in Brighton, said: "I commonly see children who've been put on to unnecessarily restricted diets because their parents assume, in good faith, that they have allergies to multiple foods on the basis of 'allergy tests' that have no scientific basis." he said.