Food Allergies: A 10 year retrospective.
“Are there any food allergies I should know about?”
The first time a server asked me that question, it hit me how much the world had changed. Food allergies have become so common that servers now assume that every table has a food allergy sufferer.
Not long ago, eating at a restaurant or buying something from a grocery store required a Sherlock Holmes-level of investigation to understand the ingredients.
While food allergy rates soared through the 1990’s, it wasn’t until 2006 that packaged foods were required to list the top 8 allergens (peanut, dairy, egg, wheat, soy, tree nuts, fish and shellfish). Food manufacturers fought these labeling requirements. And when restaurants were asked to do the same they fought it as well.
However, in just the last 10 years,
- Food allergies are now understood as a real condition requiring accommodation
- Packaged goods list all allergens and often possible cross contact
- Restaurants call out allergens on menus
- Schools, venues, and offices have training for recognizing and treating reactions
- We figured out what causes 80% of infant food allergies
- We developed treatments to reduce the severity of food allergies
- Allergen-free foods have exploded as a market segment
As I look back in awe, I am even more hopeful that the next 10 years will see continued advances. There are three key areas I’m excited about:
- Funding for Research - Under the FASTER Act, congress will increase NIH funding for food allergy research. With increased public funding, we may find a true cure for food allergies. As more and more members of state and federal legislatures are personally affected by food allergies in their families, I believe this funding will continue to increase.
- The Microbiome - We are just beginning to understand how the billions of bacteria that live in every part of our body are responsible for our health. More and more research suggests that dysbiosis of the microbiome can cause food allergies, and that “repairing” the microbiome can alleviate them. This is incredibly exciting because while genetics are nearly impossible to fix, the microbiome may be quite amenable to intervention.
- Clean Ingredients - One of the strange side-effects of so many families having to read food ingredient labels is that people are more aware of the ingredients in their foods. Allergen labeling is part of a larger trend of clean eating and products with simple ingredients. Soy, for example, was in many foods as a filler and has been removed to remove the allergen risk.
The 2020’s have kicked off strong with recent advances in food allergies, and will only continue to improve. Lil Mixins is excited to be a part of the effort to put an end to food allergies altogether with our early introduction powders.