- The number of insurance claims filed for severe allergic reaction to food has increased 377% from 2007 to 2016, according to a study from FAIR Health.
- Peanuts were the most commonly identified food causing a life-threatening allergic reaction. Tree nuts and seeds, eggs, crustaceans, milk products, fruits and vegetables, fish and food additives were also cited. “Other specific foods” containing an unknown allergen was listed as the cause for the most food allergy diagnoses.
- Roughly two-thirds (66%) of the claims were filed for patients 18 years old and younger, leaving about a third (34%) attributed to those over 18.
The dramatic increase in the number of insurance claims filed for a severe allergic reactions to food is the latest reinforcement that food allergies could be on the rise. Experts are mixed about whether food allergies are becoming more common, as consumers often misdiagnose reactions to a food and call it an allergy. Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that food allergies rose 18% among children between 1997 and 2006.
Earlier this summer, reports stated that about 4% of Americans suffer from food allergies and intolerances. In addition, there are a growing number of consumers electing to avoid ingredients that are common allergens, like soy or dairy, even though they don’t have an allergy to those foods.
Food manufacturers have taken notice and are embracing the free-from food trend. “Free-from” can refer to allergen-free, gluten-free and non-GMO products. According to Mintel, the number of new products carrying a low/no/reduced allergen claim increased 28% in 2014.
In addition to creating more allergen-free products, some food makers are purchasing smaller allergen-free brands. Many other CPG manufacturers have reformulated products to eliminate common allergens. In 2015, Mondelez International acquired Enjoy Life Snacks, which makes products that don’t contain the eight most common allergens. This was a safe bet for Mondelez, which is able to appeal to the allergy-conscious consumer without investing R&D funds on products that may flop.
General Mills discovered that many varieties of their popular Cheerios line were already gluten-free, while others just needed small changes for all of them to get the attractive "gluten-free" label. Lucky Charms went gluten-free in 2016 as well.
As demand continues to grow among food allergy sufferers and those just trying to avoid certain ingredients, expect to see more allergen-free CPGs on store shelves — and allergen-free versions of popular food staples, too.