People often think of food allergies as a childhood disease, where 1 in every 13 kids have a food allergy. And, much attention DOES need to be paid to the developmental years to keep young food allergies patients safe.
But recently, Dr. Ruchi Gupta and her research team reported that 1 in 10 adults have a food allergy in the United States – that’s 26 million adults. This more than doubles previous estimates putting the total number of patients with food allergies over 32 million people in the US.
Beyond the fascinating information presented in her study. This has tremendous implications outside of the medical field. This number changes the discussion in a variety of industries who should now be taking food allergies into account in a way they may not have before.
To put it in all in context, food allergies affect:
- 1,500 passengers that fly Delta daily
- 260,000 passengers that the FAA serves daily in and out of U.S. airports
- 520,000 visitors to Disney World annually
- 15,000,000 guests at Hilton Hotels annually
- 10,000,000 diners at fast food establishments annually
- Almost 2,900 ticket holders at each and every Major League Baseball game
- 72,000 fans annually at AT&T Stadium watching the Dallas Cowboys play
- 400,000 teachers in primary and secondary schools
- Nearly 95,000 people working as chefs, cooks and other food preparation employees
But, these numbers aren’t exactly representative of all those who are affected by food allergies. Parents, siblings, co-workers and friends all make decisions based on their companion with food allergies. And, when handled well, those experiences flying, visiting amusement parks, staying at hotels, eating in restaurants, attending events, etc, leave a lasting impression that breeds customer loyalty. Companies need to carefully consider food allergies and implement best practices to gain and retain this kind of loyalty. If 32 million Americans suffer from food allergies directly, it may be safe to assume that as many as 120 million Americans are affected by them indirectly by enjoying time with allergic friends, family and co-workers.
Mistakes with food allergy do not only lead to uncomfortableness (such as hives), as many who do not have food allergies sometimes believe. They can lead to serious emergencies as reactions vary from simple hives to fainting, throat closing, respiratory distress and cardiac issues and need to be taken very seriously in order to be managed properly. This requires education across the board and thoughtful policies that offer patients a safe experience.
What can companies do to offer safe options to those with food allergies? Where can they be more transparent? What can they do educate their employees? How will they prepare for a food allergic emergency?
It will be interesting to see which companies embrace these statistics and what they do to do be sensitive to this epidemic.