The growing number of Americans suffering from food allergies is on the rise. According to new research from FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), 85 million U.S. consumers are dealing with food allergies and are spending more than $19 billion a year on specialty food products to avoid them. That accounts for one-in-four Americans who are currently avoiding the purchase of products containing food allergens.

While the FDA currently requires that brands disclose the top eight allergens in their ingredients list, there is no universal image or phrase that CPG brands use to alert consumers of a potential top allergen. “More than half (53%) of America’s food allergy consumers indicate current labels are problematic and interfere with their daily lives. More than seven-in-ten (71%) say they spend on average 3-5 minutes reading the labels of every single food item they purchase,” reports FARE.

As we transition into  fall and back-to-school, food allergies are top of mind for parents around the country. Recently, the FDA loosened their guidelines on food labeling requirements to avoid possible disruptions to the supply chain due to COVID-19. Manufactures now have more flexibility to substitute ingredients during shortages to ensure their products go to market. “We are providing flexibility for manufacturers to use existing labels, without making otherwise required changes, when making minor formula adjustments due to unforeseen shortages or supply chain disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated the FDA in its recent policy update.

Larger brands have an opportunity to reach consumers looking for more transparency and efficiency in their shopping by paving a new path towards the universal labeling of top allergens. Easy to spot labeling that alerts shoppers to a possible allergen will expedite the time consumers spend at their local grocer, while cutting the risk and cost of a potential emergency room visit.