You are viewing United States

Navigating Food Allergens: How Ingredient Suppliers in the United States are Addressing Dietary Restrictions

Posted March 13, 2024

With roughly 32 million children and adults1 in the United States affected by food allergies, it's essential to understand how food allergies affect consumers and suppliers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates ingredient suppliers to help reduce cross-contamination and protect consumers. While current regulations are beneficial, around half of adults report developing a food allergy2 they didn't have as a child. The growing number of people with food allergies means that ingredient suppliers need to address dietary restrictions to protect an increasing consumer base. 

Understanding Food Allergens

Food allergens are foods or substances that create an immune response in certain people — they can lead to allergic reactions, life-threatening conditions, or even death. The FDA recognizes these nine major food allergens3, although minor allergens do exist:

  • Eggs
  • Crustacean shellfish
  • FIsh
  • Milk
  • Soybeans
  • Treenuts
  • Wheat
  • Peanuts
  • Sesame

Individuals with sensitivities to any of these allergens experience a range of symptoms depending on their allergy severity and exposure. Understanding the risks associated with food allergies is vital for consumers to make necessary informed dietary choices and suppliers to ensure safety. 

Impact of Food Allergens 

Food allergens impact consumers beyond their individual health concerns. Caring for a child with allergies costs families around $25 billion per year4 — more than $4,000 per year per child. Costs handled by families, not by the medical system, amounted to about $21 billion, 31 percent of which were related to the additional cost of food. Consumers who work to avoid allergens and find substitutes deal with financial and nutritional challenges. Finding affordable substitutes can take up more consumer time and money, inconveniencing them.

Along with consumer challenges, the food industry also faces struggles with food allergens. Ensuring accurate allergen labels, preventing cross-contamination, and developing allergen-free ingredients consume resources to ensure consumer safety. Additionally, food establishments must have protocols to protect their customers. Following food safety regulations and protocols helps ensure consumer well-being while maintaining trust in suppliers and businesses. 

Exploring Food Allergen Regulations

To protect consumers and help educate them on food allergens, the FDA passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act5 (FALCPA) in 2004 and the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act in 2021. Together, these acts require clear, accurate labels for all nine of the major food allergens. Manufacturers have to use plain language to declare allergens in their products, helping consumers stay safe while shopping. While not required, labels may also include potential cross-contamination information to explain the potential risks to consumers. 

Suppliers also have to follow food allergen6 regulations. They need to give manufacturers accurate allergen information, helping them produce precise labels. Manufacturers and suppliers face legal repercussions if they fail to follow FDA standards, and they risk harming consumers and their reputations if they are not compliant. 

These food allergen safety and labeling regulations help protect consumers with allergies and promote food supply chain transparency. Ingredient suppliers are critical in upholding these standards, making the food industry safer for everyone. 

Action Taken by Ingredient Suppliers in the US


Ingredient suppliers are at the top of the food allergen safety chain. They ensure manufacturers have the information needed to properly label foods and protect consumers. They monitor many aspects of the production process to eliminate cross-contamination, increase supply-chain transparency, and ensure product quality:

  • Eliminate cross-contamination: While allergens and nonallergenic ingredients might go through the same factory, it's essential to avoid contact between these ingredients. Regulations require careful prevention measures to avoid contamination — suppliers use segregated ingredient storage, dedicated equipment, production scheduling, and cleaning protocols to control or eliminate cross-contamination.
  • Increase supply chain transparency: Allergen transparency helps protect consumers. Finished product and ingredient suppliers track and document their product's journey through the supply chain. This tracking involves keeping detailed records and using a good Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to ensure traceability. The demand for transparency has helped protect consumers, but it means suppliers must be involved every step of the way. 
  • Ensuring product quality: Suppliers have to adapt to changing consumer preferences, dietary trends, and allergen-free requirements without cutting taste, texture, or nutrition. Striking this balance means investing in innovations, research, and even restructuring production processes. 

With a growing landscape of consumers with dietary restrictions, suppliers need to implement effective strategies to help meet these needs. Strict protocols in supplier approval, ingredient sourcing, and processing are essential elements of allergen control plans. 

Future Trends

The future of food allergen management lies in advanced allergy testing methods for consumers. Researchers are looking for allergy testing methods7 that avoid the risks of ingesting allergens and the anxiety that often comes with modern tests. New research has created a blood testing method for peanut allergies, although this test needs further development to work for other allergens8



Food ingredient suppliers and manufacturers can continue to invest in research to develop alternative ingredients and products that allow consumers with allergies to enjoy their favorite foods safely. Ingredient suppliers and food manufacturers can work together to remove allergens without sacrificing taste. An innovative approach to allergen-free foods is necessary to stay competitive in this ever-changing market. 

As consumer awareness and demand grow, we're likely to see greater advances in allergen testing, ingredient substitutions, and supply, ensuring the safety and satisfaction of all consumers. 

Explore Innovative Solutions With Kemin

While food allergen management has come a long way, research into preventing further risks and providing allergen alternatives for consumers continues to expand. With more consumers looking for alternatives every year, manufacturers and suppliers continue to invest in developing solutions that could meet various label requirements. Learn more about Kemin's innovative ingredients here.