The time people with food allergies spend planning so that they can take part in activities with their condition, adds up to more than 44 days every year – that’s the equivalent of nearly a month and a half on day-to-day life admin. This is just one of the staggering statistics revealed by research commissioned by the Food Standards Agency.

The FSA has released the findings of two studies into the economic and personal cost of living with food allergy.

These issues are often raised by families and discussed at our meet-ups and so it’s great that work has been done to quantify the emotional, financial and time burden of living with food allergy. 

Here are some of the key findings, with more detail below:

Economic cost

· For every £1 spent by a household without food hypersensitivity, households living with food allergy will spend an additional 14p.

· On average the parents of children with food allergy would be willing to pay £2,766 a year to remove the symptoms and limitations of their child’s condition. (Note: this was worked out from survey responses to a number of different questions)

· Adults with food allergy spend £27.98 on average per month on medical costs related to their condition, including things like nutritional supplements.

Time cost

· Adults with food allergy lose on average 3.77 paid working days per year.

· These adults also spend more than 44 days researching and planning activities due to their food allergy.

Emotional cost

People with food allergy said the top three impacts on their quality of life are:

1)      The fear of an allergic reaction
2)      The fear of an allergic reaction when eating out
3)      The trouble from always being alert as to what you are eating 

“This research lays bare the huge burden of living with food allergy, not just on our wallets but on our time too. When I tell friends how much time I spend searching for free from food, in numerous supermarkets or trying to plan a family day out, they find it hard to believe.

This FSA research reinforces what families living with food allergy have been saying for years and relieving that burden is at the heart of The Allergy Team.”

Sarah Knight, founder of The Allergy Team

More detail

The FSA-commissioned research doesn’t just address food allergies, it looks at the burden on people with coeliac disease and food intolerances too and brings these together under the collective term, Food Hypersensitivity.

There were two studies, the first looked at the “Impacts of Food Hypersensitivities on Quality of Life in the UK and Willingness to Pay (WTP) to remove those impacts”, the second analyses the financial burden on people living with Food Hypersensitivity.

Impact on Quality of Life

This project surveyed 1,426 adults and 716 living with food hypersensitivity between July and December 2021. It looked the impact of food allergy on their quality of life and what monetary value they would put on removing those impacts.

Amongst adults, the average willingness to pay (to remove their food hypersensitivity for a year) figure was £718. For adults with food allergy the figure was £1,064, £1,342 for coeliac disease and £540 for food intolerance.

Parents’ willingness to pay figure averaged out at £2,501 per year, to remove their child’s food hypersensitivity: £2,766 for food allergy, £1,628 for coeliac disease, £1,689 for food intolerance.

Financial burden

This study aimed to work out the financial burden on adults managing the risks of living with food hypersensitivities, including food allergy. Included in this are things like the cost of buying food, purchasing extra kitchen equipment and taking days off work. 2,755 households responded to an online survey, just under half of these included an adult with food hypersensitivity and responses from the two groups were compared.

It found that households with a food-hypersensitive adult spend an additional 12-27% on weekly food shopping. Within this group, households living with food allergy had the highest additional costs, then households with a food intolerance, followed by households with coeliac disease. This was largely because adults with food allergies had higher eating out and takeaway costs and higher average monthly medical costs than the other groups.

You can read the full findings here.

Further support:

If you are affected by any of the issues above, why not join one of our supportive, free, online meet-ups to share experiences of living with food allergy with other parents/carers. These are informal chats over Zoom, hosted by a member of The Allergy Team.

We also run expert Q&As, covering all sorts of allergy-related topics including managing anxiety, travelling with food allergies and weaning.

Written by The Allergy Team, January 2023

The cost of living with food allergy is something The Allergy Team has been focusing on for some time – you can read our latest look at free-from food inflation here.