Food Allergies Are Expensive

A recent article from Reuters tallies up the annual cost of food allergies in the US at half a billion dollars.

Doctor visits, hospital care, and lost work days due to food allergies come with an annual $500 million price tag, according to a new U.S. study.

But what’s even more worrying is that

Food allergies among children have climbed 18 percent from 1997 to 2007, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. read more…

What you need to know:

Approximately 15% of Americans suffer from some sort of allergy or exaggerated  immune response. There’s no single acceptable scientific explanation for the dramatic rise in allergies in the last decade:

1. People are much more aware of intolerances today than they were in the past. Whereas people could have gone for years with ailments and aches related to lactose or gluten intolerance, today they get diagnosed and embark on the appropriate dietary journey. And the food industry is happy to oblige, as evidenced by the dramatic rise in gluten free and dairy free options at the supermarket.

2. Toxic environment. Whether it’s pollution in the air, water, or ground, toxins are finding their way into our food supply.

3. Genetically Modified Foods.

Thankfully, today the top 8 allergies are acknowledged by law on food labels, and if you or a family member suffer from an allergy to milk, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, or eggs, the ingredient list of a product will clearly state if a product contains one of these. And there are plenty of allergen free options available at the grocery store.

One must be careful though. Allergen free does not necessarily mean junk food free. And there is usually a premium price for such products.

Do you or a loved one suffer from a food allergy? How did you find out? How are you coping?

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  • Gretchen

    My son is allergic to milk. I pretty much cook everything and we hardly ever eat out. I look at is as a good thing in away because it keeps us from eating a lot of things we shouldn’t eat anyway. I did take him to a N.D. and she really helped me figure out what I needed to be cooking and helping me make sure he gets all the nutrition he needs without the milk:)

  • Lauren Smith

    And those half a billion dollars doesn’t count the hefty price of buying “specialty” foods, like almond/coconut/soy/rice milk, soy yogurt, gluten-free pasta, etc. I’d go completely dairy-free if it weren’t for the price of the specialty products.

    • Rachel Assuncao

      Have you ever tried making your own nut milks, nut cheeses, and other dairy free alternatives? We make it all at home and it saves a lot of money, is really easy, and is just whole ingredients.

      • Jpentkowski

        I’d be interested in getting more information about making my own dairy free alternatives. Our family is new to the dairy free lifestyle and I’m not only concerned with the cost of the alternatives offered but I don’t like some of the ingredients in the commercially produced dairy free options.

        • Rachel Assuncao

          Contact me at and I’ll be happy to share some of what I’ve learned.

  • Rachel Assuncao

    Another reason that could be added to the rise in allergies list is early vaccination. There is a growing body of peer-reviewed scientific evidence that finds that children who follow the approved vaccine protocol have significantly more allergies and asthma than children who follow a delayed and individual vaccine protocol or are not vaccinated at all.

    I suspect the percentage of people with food allergies and sensitivities is probably much higher than 15%. So many people suffer ‘mystery symptoms’ that are ‘uncurable’ that are often food related but don’t show up on the standard medical tests. I have a friend who had ‘eczema’ for the first 30 years of her life and when she did an elimination diet discovered she was allergic to dairy. Take it out and the eczema completely disappeared forever. I have a client who had hayfever her whole life (as in, every single day) and as an adult developed asthma. When she took the wheat out of her diet, both of those disappeared. In my daughter’s case, she had a long list of food sensitivities and we worked with a naturopath to heal those things in her body. She’s now sensitivity free and can eat a wide range of whole foods with no reaction.

    My experience is that food sensitivities can be an empowering experience – making changes to reclaim your health. I’ve also witnessed the power of holistic medicine curing what the allopathic community would say is something you just have to live with – oh, and take our expensive drugs while you’re at it to prevent the symptoms.

    • sandy79

      Could you provide some citations for the peer-reviewed scientific evidence connecting the approved vaccination schedule with food allergy and asthma? 

  • Malina Stroup

    Fruits and Vegetables are not expensive, nor are grains and legumes, and neither will unprocessed meats break the bank any faster than a series of drive-thru burgers.

    I can see the traps, though: fresh, natural, and healthy eating can be absurdly *time consuming* in the way of preparation, and occasionally, cravings for the forbidden foods can be overwhelming, so the budget-busters are the “convenience” and “compensating” foods used to solve these issues.

    But those are indulgences (for me, it’s Coconut Milk “Ice Cream” and vegan, soy-free “cheese shreds”) , and I actually appreciate that my splurges carry a financial impact that more accurately aligns with the physical impacts of choosing processed over self-made foods.

    And I’m intentionally ignoring the mentions of medical costs. Emergencies happen, but I believe the bulk of the related medical expenses are about seeking greater convenience and comfort, not necessarily sustainable health.

    • Rachel Assuncao

      I love the correlation between the financial and physical impacts of your indulgences. It’s so true, and I’ve never thought of it that way. Thanks for sharing!

  • Anonymous

    There a difference between allergy & food intolerance. Generally, an allergy is an immune system reaction (or over-reaction) to a protein, while an intolerance, such as lactose (a sugar, not a protein) is due to lack of the enzyme needed to digest/break down the lactose. So someone w/lactose intolerance can often eat yogurt (because bacteria have digested/broken down the lactose) or lactaid milk.

    There’s a spelling error in the post: it’s genetically modified food crops (or genetically modified seeds), not genetic modified.

    It’s interesting (and rather daunting) how many products are the product of genetically modified organisms–if you ever read the information enclosed w/bottles of insulin, you’ll see that it’s produced by genetically modified e.coli (there are many strains of e.coli). Difficult to escape exposure.

    • Liisa

      Nope. Allergy is a specific immune response while intolerance happens just for every reason, so allergy is a sort of intolerance.

      • Anonymous

         Correct, the term “allergy” describes a specific physical response: “. It is characterized by excessive activation of certain white blood cells called mast cells and basophils by a type of antibody known as IgE, resulting in an extreme inflammatory response. Common allergic reactions include eczema, hives, hay fever, asthma attacks, food allergies, and reactions to the venom of stinging insects such as wasps and bees.[2]

  • Chris

    Another possibility (or so I’ve read) is that the rise of food allergies is connected to the changes in the care of babies. Infants grow up in increasingly sanitized, aseptized environments. Years ago, people didn’t care if a small child played with earth, mud or dirt, and even ate small quantities of it. Not so today. This would actually dull their immune system, which would then be more likely to misfire, attacking “self” instead of “non-self”. This is interesting, I think.

  • acoolerclimate

    I’m 46 years old and have never had a food allergy, until very recently. Out of the blue, a few months ago I ate shrimp and got really itchy. I didn’t put the two together until the next time. I went to a dinner party and ate a lot of shrimp. Within an hour I was itching all over and people were commenting on all the red welts on my face and upper body. Not ready to believe it yet, I ate shrimp one more time, just 3 jumbo ones. 45 minutes later? Covered in hives.

    What the heck, I’ve been eating Shrimp all my life. Now I’m afraid to touch it lest the hives turn into breathing problems or shock. How does one get an allergy out of the blue at 46?

    • Bridget Fawcett Johns

      I have lived in the same area most of my life and found at age 30 that I had allergies to grass and pollen. That is crazy to me. I now do an allergy therapy called Low Dose Immunotherapy (see I love it. If you really love shrimp, you should look into this as it helps airborne, food, chemical and other sensitivities.

  • Isayra

    It’s all because of neurotoxins in our food!!!

  • Isayra

    It’s all because of neurotoxins in our food!!!

  • Isayra

    It’s all because of neurotoxins in our food!!!

  • Isayra


  • Isayra

    Neurotoxins like MSG and aspartame cause obesity and brain lesions in baby mice. Here’s a study of what msg does to adult female rats. Msg is linked to allergies.