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FARE Blog July 23, 2020

“Someday Starts Today" – What FARE’s Food Allergy Consumer Journey Means for Our Community

FARE is leveraging the findings from our Food Allergy Consumer Journey studies to advance the case for user-friendly universal allergen labeling.

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A blog post by Anita Roach, FARE's Vice President of Education and Voice of the Patient, and Jason Linde, FARE's Vice President of Federal Government Relations 

How much easier would shopping for your food allergy family be if…

  • icons on every product showed which of the top-nine allergens were used as ingredients? 
  • an identical set of icons and wording was used on every product in the store?
  • those icons and wording were located in the same place on every package?
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What if before you went shopping, you encountered a new product online that you wanted to try, and you could click on an app to make sure it was safe for you to purchase for your family?

Imagine how much time you would save and how much more relaxed your grocery shopping experience would be if these changes were in place! Families managing food allergies could avoid so much fear and anxiety about making the wrong choices, and save so much time now spent reading labels, visiting websites, and calling 1-800 numbers. 

If only food manufacturers would someday understand how loyal the food allergy community is to allergen-friendly companies and how much the community values labeling they can quickly decipher on products that consistently provide safety, taste and affordability.

Well, thanks to FARE’s Food Allergy Consumer Journey, someday starts today.

For the last month, along with our chief executive officer, Lisa Gable, we presented the findings of the Food Allergy Consumer Journey to more than 100 food company and trade association executives. We helped them understand that the number of Americans avoiding products containing the top nine allergens is much larger than they thought.

We know there are 32 million Americans living with potentially life-threatening food allergies to one or more of the 200+ known allergens. Thanks to this new research, we now know that a significant portion of the 32 million belongs to a larger group of 85 million Americans who avoid purchasing a product with one of the top-nine allergens because they or someone in their household is either allergic or intolerant. That means 25 percent of all Americans, or one in every four, act the same way when it comes to purchasing food at a grocery store or online.

Here’s a closer look at the 85 million Americans:

  • 29 million have at least one food allergy to a top-nine allergen
  • 31 million have at least one food intolerance to a top-nine allergen
  • 25 million share a household with someone who has at least one food allergy or intolerance to a top nine allergen

We’ve helped food companies and trade associations understand the true size of the population avoiding top nine allergens. We’ve also revealed how food allergy families shop, how we read each label for 3-5 minutes on average, and what we want from precautionary allergen labels (“may contain” statements): clear and consistent labeling located on the front of the package. 

We shared with the food companies and trade associations that the roughly 40 precautionary allergen labels, or PALs, currently being used, have created confusion for food allergy consumers. Our research found that the food allergy community is interested in having one label, such as “May Contain,” and that if that label was standardized, we could work with advocates and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop and implement an information campaign to help individuals understand what “May Contain” means.

We also explained the interest our community has in standardized iconography and “May Contain” language to help shoppers of all backgrounds quickly identify which products are safe and which should be avoided. We encouraged these companies and groups to take action today by updating their websites and mobile app to share with consumers the allergen content of their products as well as by moving forward on the process of transitioning to standardized “May Contain” labeling on food product packaging.

FARE’s educational efforts around the Food Allergy Consumer Journey are just starting with creating a standard precautionary allergen label and definition. We know that it will take many more months, and potentially years, for food companies to reach consensus around “May Contain.” Yet, we are also seeing in these presentations a real willingness among participants to make changes today that will improve the lives of food allergy families because these businesses and associations now have a better understanding of what we need. As this journey continues, stay tuned for updates and information on how you can join our efforts as we work together to someday make anxiety-free grocery shopping a reality.

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