The Importance of Labeling: Living With Food Allergies
By: Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE)
March 03, 2023
Imagine taking a bite of your favorite food, that you have enjoyed your entire life, and suddenly, you have difficulty breathing. You rush to the emergency room to stop the allergic reaction and learn that your body now rejects that food you love so much.
That's what it is like for a food allergy patient who is having their first life-threatening reaction. It's scary, disorienting, and life-changing.
Now, imagine what life is like after that first harrowing experience. You now live with the anxiety that comes with knowing that a simple food item could cause another severe allergic reaction.
You now have to stop eating that food completely, as well as any other foods that use it as an ingredient. Welcome to the reality of 32 million Americans* who have life-threatening food allergies.
And that's where Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), the nation's leading nonprofit engaged in food allergy advocacy as well as the largest private funder of food allergy research, comes in.
"Our only option to save her life is to try and avoid the hundreds of foods that could potentially send her into anaphylactic shock. For kids like Morgan who suffer from allergies like this, normal childhood celebrations like birthday parties, holiday gatherings, trick-or-treating, Easter egg hunts, classroom parties, end up becoming death traps." - Megan, food allergy parent
FARE's innovative education, advocacy, and research initiatives are transforming the future of food allergy through new and improved treatments and prevention strategies, effective policies and legislation, and novel approaches to managing the disease. FARE works on behalf of Americans with life-threatening food allergies, as well as the 85 million Americans with food intolerances.
Living with food allergies is challenging, to say the least. From eating out to attending events to doing simple things like grocery shopping, food allergic individuals are always on high alert. All it takes is one simple overlooked ingredient to end up in the hospital; in fact, the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology estimates that every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room. One of the most challenging aspects of having a food allergy is navigating the grocery store. For those with food allergies or intolerances, food shopping becomes a time-consuming, stress-inducing activity. Basically, for food allergic individuals, it comes down to the mundane task of reading ingredient labels-always, every label, every time. For example, someone with a dairy allergy needs to read labels looking for not only milk, butter, and cheese, but also ingredients like whey, casein, and lactic acid. Knowing that companies like Applegate are so clear in their labels makes shopping a little bit easier.
The scrutiny involved in reading food labels can mean the difference between staying healthy and having an allergic reaction. And reading it
one time is not enough, as ingredient lists can change; just because a food item was safe in the past doesn't necessarily mean it's safe now. Mislabeling can occur when manufacturers suddenly change how they produce a food without updating the label, which can have catastrophic consequences to those that depend on the labels to keep them safe. That is why it's so important that food labels are clear, accurate, and up-to-date to keep people with food allergies safe and healthy.
FARE has been advocating relentlessly for over a decade on labeling and safety issues and had a huge win with the passage of the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education & Research (FASTER) Act in 2021. Signed into law by President Biden, the FASTER Act was officially implemented on January 1, 2023. The Act, which was made possible by the work of the dedicated food allergy community advocates, expands allergen labeling to include sesame (1.5 million Americans have sesame allergies), simplifies the process for labeling new allergens as they emerge, and lays the groundwork for research breakthroughs to find new treatments for food allergies.
Advocacy work like that being done for the FASTER Act cannot happen without the support and collaboration of partners like Applegate. FARE and Applegate have been partnering since 2021, working together to better the lives of all people, regardless of food allergies. Through this partnership, we want to ensure that all individuals have access to healthful, sustainable choices, knowing that food choices directly affect an individual's health.
For more information on FARE and how you can get involved in their mission to improve the quality of life and health of those with food allergies, please visit www.foodallergy.org.