The Centers for Disease Control released data this week showing that four out of every 100 children have a food allergy. That’s an 18% increase over the past ten years — a significant increase, according to the CDC.
Whatever the reason, it’s clear that supermarkets need to get serious about addressing food allergies, if they haven’t already. This means, of course, stocking plenty of allergen-free products, perhaps even creating a store-within-a-store concept, depending on the area. Even more than that, retailers need to make sure their labeling and marketing programs go the extra mile. Take the time, for example, to draw up ingredients lists for foodservice items like salad bar and hot plate lines. I’m allergic to peanuts and shellfish, and the only supermarket in the city I’ve found that does this is Whole Foods. I eat there at least twice a week.
On the manufacturing side, companies are rolling out more and more products made in dedicated facilities. But perhaps there aren’t enough, given the increasing demand. One industry observer who recently sent along her impressions from last week’s Natural Products Expo East noted that the show was lacking in allergy “free” products.
For allergy sufferers, nothing is more comforting than transparency. Given how many of us there are — more than 5 million — this shouldn’t be too much to ask for.