Food allergies costing NHS 68m a year and food allergy hospital admissions up by 500pc in 25 years

Author: Pegasus

Date: Apr 2015

New research shows public dismissing food allergies as an “unnecessary fuss” and yet allergy hospital admissions rise[1]

An estimated 10 million people in the UK are living with one or more food allergy or intolerance.[2] Hospital admissions resulting from food allergies have risen by more than 500% since 1990,[3] giving rise to an estimated £68 million a year in allergy-related hospital admissions.[4]

However, new research from Holland & Barrett, commissioned for Allergy Awareness Week, shows that although 53% of the population knows someone living with a food-related allergy or intolerance, 35% of people think sufferers make an unnecessary fuss over food allergy, 61% don't view food intolerance as a serious condition and 24% have no empathy with those with a food allergy or intolerance.

Lindsey McManus, Deputy CEO of Allergy UK says: "A third of households are now affected by food allergy or intolerance,[5] and it is well known that some allergies can be fatal. What this new research shows is that the public fail to appreciate the much broader extent of food allergy and intolerance, and the impact the conditions have on the lives of sufferers and their families. Our helpline advisors provide much-needed support and information to people trying to manage their conditions, and the demand for our help is rising as our genetics, our living environment, our diets and some of the foods we eat are contributing to noticeable rises year on year in the number of people seeking advice and support."

The research reinforced the difficulties sufferers experience in living with their condition. More than half (57%) said they find it very difficult to live with their condition, 49% said that allergy and intolerance affects their quality of life and 54% worry about it most of the time, especially when they are around food. When questioned about how they thought society regarded their condition, 53% said that in their experience, the public were generally dismissive of food allergies and intolerance, despite the personal burden of sufferers and the potential risk of fatality.

The research comes as Holland & Barrett try to better the market for Free-From products, so sufferers and their families can access the widest range of Free-From products in one place, rather than having to shop at a variety of destinations to find the right mix of Free From products to meet their specific needs. The retailer will launch this week the UK's largest Free From product range online and the country's first Free From concept store, both designed to transform the Free From shopping experience and make the lives of those living with food allergy and intolerance considerably easier.

Peter Aldis, Holland & Barrett CEO says: "I am one of two directors on our board that have children diagnosed with complex food allergies, and we have first-hand experience not only of the worry this causes as parents, but the very real practical challenges involved in day to day shopping to make sure the food we put on our plates is safe for our children to eat. Our new proposition means people can now search the widest product range available, and then filter that search by one or more allergy or intolerance. We believe this is a major step-change for sufferers and will help remove some of the worry and a lot of the practical difficulties in living with these types of food conditions."

Holland & Barrett's research shows that sufferers currently have a hard time trying to make sure their weekly shop is safe, and finding suitable products that are tasty and also good value is equally challenging. Over half of sufferers (57%) report having to shop at numerous retailers to find the food they need and two thirds (68%) report frustration at the limited choice in Free From alternatives. A quarter (29%) have problems finding safe foods that taste good and nearly 40% of sufferers worry about the expense of having to buy Free From alternatives.

Additional News Statistics[6]
Non-food allergy/ intolerance sufferers:

i. Less than a tenth (8%) were able to identify the difference between an allergy and intolerance
ii. Less than a quarter (23%) knew that dairy and lactose are the biggest cause of food allergy or intolerance in the UK
iii. Half (49%) admit that they struggle to cater for friends and family that have a food allergy or intolerance

Allergy/ intolerance sufferers:

i. Only a third say they feel supported in their condition (33%)
ii. Half said that they think advice in this country is just satisfactory or poor (51%)
iii. A third (37%) still find it hard to shop for their condition
iv. 34% shop at four or more stores in a week to find the products that they like
v. 87% said they would like to see more Free From foods on the shelf

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Next review: 28 April 2021