Eighty-five million U.S. consumers managing food allergies spend more than $19 billion annually on specialty food products to avoid allergic reactions or other health consequences—paying 5% more per month than the average consumer—according to new research released from FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education).

The findings are part of FARE’s Food Allergy Consumer Journey Study, a series of research projects on food allergy consumers, their shopping habits, and the challenges they face when accessing safe and affordable foods. The initiative includes three studies in partnership with three research organizations: McKinsey & Co., Global Strategy Group (GSG), and the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

The research projects revealed that more than half (53%) of America’s food allergy consumers indicate current labels are problematic and interfere with their daily lives. Additionally, 71% say they spend, on average, 3–5 minutes reading the labels of every single food item they purchase. FARE concluded that the key takeaway across all three projects is that a universal label is needed. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently requires disclosure of the top eight allergens in ingredient lists, and FARE is actively advocating that sesame be added as a ninth, there is no universal phrase or image to show that a product may unintentionally contain an allergen.

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