The good news for the environment and for our health is that plant-based food is increasing in popularity.
Indeed, last year the Plant-Based Foods Association reported that plant-based food sales had overtaken the $3.3 billion benchmark. This was helped by sales of plant-based meat products growing by 24% – a notable development as general retail food sales only grew by 2% in the same period.
Not only are plant-based foods beneficial in terms of the environment and our health, but these products are a representation of huge strides in food innovation. Companies that producing plant-based products are meeting consumer demand for value, convenience, and taste.
However, there may also be unintended consequences as far as the food allergic community is concerned when it comes to consuming these valuable foods.
It is why Food Allergy, Research and Education (FARE), which is the world’s largest advocate for the community who suffer food allergies, is calling for all those people with food allergies as well as those without to be able to safely sample plant-based foods. At Portland allergist the Allergy Immunology Clinic, we support the initiative wholeheartedly.
As a result, FARE wants to work with the food innovation industry to tackle allergy issues that arise while products are being formulated. The organization is excited about the potential of new technologies like AI and gene editing to be able to arrest food allergies at the source. With hand-in-hand collaboration, FARE believes companies will be able to avoid unintentional consequences like accidentally eliminating entire groups of potential customers.
At present, though, these solutions are still in progress, so FARE is interested in assisting businesses to improve the way they try to meet the needs of the food allergic community through improved labelling and enhanced customer education.
Many plant-based foods involve the use of many of the most common allergens throughout America. These include peanuts, tree nuts, along with wheat and soybeans. At present, it is not easy to discover these dangers from product labels.
Pea protein, for example, is a common substitute that is used in creating plant-based meats. While pea protein may be good for a lot of people, it is derived from a legume and has consequently caused those consumers who have severe legume and peanut allergies to suffer deeply unpleasant and often life-threatening reactions.
There was an incident involving an investigative reporter in Utah. She has lived with a severe peanut allergy all her entire life, but she ate a plant-based burger and immediately suffered a dangerous reaction. This was in spite of the manufacturer adhering to the regulations and including a “contains no peanuts” label on the product’s packing.
As more and more new products evolve, FARE wants to be seen as a positive partner to the consumer goods industry by educating it about food allergies and how people can be affected. It is FARE’s aim to make sure that more than 32 million Americans, who currently live with a food allergy, are confident that they have what they need in order to make informed decisions.
In the short term, FARE is encouraging its stakeholders to work alongside the food allergy community, to carry out a “smart labelling initiative” to provide comprehensive updates on all ingredients used for consumers to be easily aware in real-time. They are looking to collaborate in order to speed up the necessary and welcome innovation while bolstering protections.