Food allergies and rising costs leave 2 million households without a traditional Christmas dinner!
Research from Allergy UK today highlights how food allergies and the cost of living may prevent nearly 2 million2 households from enjoying traditional festive food favourites this year. This means a potential 4.8 million3 Brits will be settling down to their Christmas dinner without the likes of mince pies, pigs in blankets, stuffing, and Christmas pudding. The research was conducted to raise awareness of the impact that the rising incidence of food allergies and the cost of free-from foods is having on many families in the UK.
Everything just costs so much
Ingredients and prices of festive favourites such as mince pies, pigs in blankets, Baileys, Quality Street, stuffing, gravy, and Christmas Pudding were analysed. All the items contained either egg, soy, dairy, wheat, or nuts rendering them off limits for the 2 million living with food allergies in the UK. Homes with someone with a food allergy usually avoid having any foods with the allergen even in the house, so this means that up to 4.8 million people could be passing on the pigs in blankets and Quality Street this Christmas.
Free From food just costs more
Despite the growth in free-from alternatives to enable people with food allergies to enjoy these foods, the higher price point makes it prohibitive for many families to do so, especially against a backdrop of the rising cost of living. Investigations by Allergy UK reveals an ‘allergy penalty’ paid by those who need to enjoy free-from foods this Christmas. For example, a free-from mince pie (four pack) costs £1.75 or 43p a pie compared to £1.09 or 18p for a standard six pack of mince pies, representing a 138% price increase per pie. When calculated across all nine items featured in the Christmas treat selection, this is equivalent to an average uplift of 157%4.
It also takes a lot longer shopping with allergies
A poll of those living with food allergies indicates that 44% of adults with food allergies always need to spend a lot of time reading food labels when shopping for food6. This is because current legislation on food labelling means that manufacturers can list the potential inclusion of an allergen on its label, even if the ingredient has not been used in the manufacture of the food. As well as making a shopping trip more time consuming, the ‘may contain’ labelling practice significantly limits the selection of foods available for those living with certain food allergies.
Are you paying the ‘allergy penalty’?
Carla Jones, CEO of Allergy UK, explains, “It is a sad reality for many households with food allergies, that there simply is a financial – and a convenience – penalty which must be paid, simply to be able to access foods which are safe to eat. This year it will be felt even more keenly with the cost-of-living crisis. For these families and individuals, there is not a lower price point alternative for free-from foods, and current labelling practices significantly reduce the choices available to these people even more. It is a case of pay up or miss out on the favourite festive treats this year. Therefore, we are calling for labelling practices to be revised, especially with the cost-of-living crisis making free-from foods increasingly prohibitive.”
Food allergies are on the rise
Statistics indicate that the prevalence of food allergies in the UK is on the rise, and recent research from a public survey by Allergy UK estimates that 8% of people in the UK are living with a food allergy7. Food abounds at Christmas, and for those living with a food allergy, the festive season brings heightened anxiety and exclusion. A survey conducted by Allergy UK in 2021 reveals that:
- 61% of children with food allergies have avoided social situations because of their allergy.
- 53% of children with food allergies feel isolated due to how much their allergies affect their life.
- 41% of parents would be anxious about their child with food allergies having an allergic reaction at a social event.
A staggering 41 million people live with allergies
Jones continues, “With our most recent research indicating that there are up to 41 million people in the UK who are living with allergic disease, it is the case that an allergy-free life is now the exception, not the rule.
It’s time to take allergy seriously!
This year Allergy UK launched a new campaign, ‘It’s Time to Take Allergy Seriously’ to bring to life its mission for no one to die from allergy. The campaign’s themes confront the realities of living with allergic conditions and calls for improved healthcare provision, better awareness in service industries and improved care standards in education environments for adults and children whose lives have been impacted by allergy.
Thanks to Allergy UK for this content.
Images from Pexels and Allergy UK.
What are you doing for Christmas?
I’m so fortunate to be going to my brother’s house for Christmas this year, so whilst I am contributing (we are all bringing food and drink) I don’t have the full cost of hosting. My family are also A * experts are keeping me safe. They completely understand my anxiety and fears and have always respected my need to check everything with them all the time. My brother and sister in law are both wonderful cooks too and I can usually eat almost everything. The one thing we agree on is that as chef, he can absolutely have his dairy laden cheeseboard! I will bring my own safe dairy free cheese for myself, although by that point I usually can’t fit in any more food!
Making your free from stuff from scratch
It might not be what you want to do, but embracing my allergies and learning to cook has meant I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I can make really tasty gravy, all the vegetables and meat and make it safe for me at the same price of a normal Christmas meal. What costs more is the processed ready made free from stuff. Like pigs in blankets (although Tesco do some amazingly good value free from Pigs in Blankets that cost less than making from scratch), mince pies, Christmas pudding, cakes, advent calendars, Panettoni… all these do cost a lot more.
What are you doing for Christmas? Are you hosting? Are you missing out on a traditional Christmas this year due to the cost? What do you think needs to happen? It really is a tough time right now for many but let’s hope 2023 is easier financially.
Notes for editors/references
Notes to Editors
- Allergy UK is a Sidcup-based charity that successfully delivers critical services to the allergic community nationwide. Allergy UK acts as the ‘voice’ of the 41 million people in the UK living with allergy, representing the views and healthcare needs of those whose lives are impacted by this multi-organ disease. Its mission is for everyone in the UK to take allergy seriously and its vision is for no one to die from allergy. Allergy UK operates a national Helpline for the allergic community and, employs skilled clinicians and dietitians to provide vital services for those affected by allergic disease.
- 4.8 million people is based on ONS data which states that the average UK household has 2.4 people living in each household.
|Food||Allergy||Avg Price (Sainsburys, Tesco, Asda)||Allergen Free Alternative||Average uplift|
|Mince Pie||Egg Wheat Nuts Dairy||£1.09 0.18 per mince pie||£1.75 0.43 per mince pie||138%|
|Baileys||Dairy||£13.58 £1.94/100ml||Homemade Recipe £5.94/100ml||206%|
|Quality Street||Nuts Dairy||£4.50 0.73/100g||Free From Truffles £4.60 £3.24/100g||343%|
|Gravy||Wheat||£0.78 0.42/100g||£1.43 £0.84/100g||100%|
|Stuffing Mix||Dairy Wheat||£0.75 0.33/100g||£1.63 £1.00/100g||203%|
|Christmas Pudding||Egg Wheat Nuts Dairy||£2.55 0.63/100g||£3.65 £0.91/100g||44%|
|Pigs in Blanket||Wheat||£3.05 0.25 per pig in blanket||£3.00 £0.30 per sausage||20%|
|Bloomer (for Turkey Sandwiches)||Wheat||£0.98 0.24/100g||£3.41 £0.85/100g||254%|
|Mayonnaise||Egg||£0.98 0.20/100g||£1.06 £0.41/100g||105%|
|Total||157% avg uplift|
- Homemade Baileys recipe using Tesco ingredients;
- Oat Cream (500ml)
- Vanilla essence (2 teaspoons= 10ml)
- Cacao powder (2 tablespoon = 28.3g)
- 4 tablespoons of Maple syrup
- 125ml Irish Jamesons Whiskey
- Cost of ingredients £35.65 for 600ml
- In 2021 Allergy UK undertook a major research study into what it is really like to live with allergic disease. 7000 people in the UK took part in the Omnibus survey and Allergy Community survey. Omnibus Public Survey found that 60% of people (4022) in the UK have an allergy.
- Statistics indicate that the prevalence of food allergies in the UK is on the rise, with greater incidence now in children, almost twice as much in fact, than adults. Foods allergies in children are estimated to be greater (5-8%) than in adults (1-2%). (Pawankar R, et al, 2013)