Meet Anita Roach, the vice president for community and education at FARE, which works to improve the lives and heath of people with food allergies. Anita gave Applegate Farms the scoop on the steady rise in U.S. food allergies and what we can all do to make this a stress-free holiday season.
Q: Food allergies are suddenly everywhere. What’s going on?
A: Food allergies impact about 32 million Americans. That means about one in 13 children or at least two in every classroom. As you say, food allergies have been on the rise, increasing about 4% every year for the past 20 years.
Researchers believe there are a couple of reasons why food allergies are on the rise. The leading one has to do with when and how often different foods are being introduced into babies’ diets. Up until recently, the guidance was to avoid feeding babies allergens, like peanuts, early in life. But what researchers are now seeing is that introducing allergens like peanuts earlier may actually reduce the risk of food allergies. So there’s a lot of research digging into whether that’s true for a host of allergens, including milk, soy and tree nuts. [Editor’s note: please consult your doctor before following this advice.]
Q:There’s good news, too. Awareness is rising, which means better and more transparent labeling, right?
A: Yep. There are more and more options for people with food allergies. But companies can always do more when it comes to clear and consistent, transparent labeling. It's really important for manufacturers and brands to make sure that they're clear on what is in the product and what's not in a product--and it’s always preferable to have that information both on front and back of pack.
The goal is to make it easy, not only for people with food allergies, to understand what's in a food product, but also the people that buy foods for them and support them on a daily basis.
Q:Any tips for the holidays?
A: The holiday season can be a stressful time for people with food allergies. So it’s so important to ask ahead of time if your guests have any food allergies. And then as you're purchasing food for those meals, read every label, every time you purchase an item. And be open! Allow guests to bring their own food or meals, if it makes them feel comfortable.
It's really all about transparency and inclusion to have a great holiday season with those that might have food allergies.
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