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SANTA MONICA, Calif. - Phil Lempert, known by both consumers and the food industry as the "Supermarket Guru" and an expert analyst on consumer, marketing, and food safety trends, yesterday launched the Food Allergy Buddy (FAB) Dining Card, a free, personalized ingredient card that consumers can present at restaurants and supermarket deli and prepared food sections, detailing their specific food allergies. Chefs and supermarket workers can then alter recipes accordingly, to meet the special needs of consumers and ensure food safety.
More than 22,000 cards have already been issued since Lempert's mention of the FAB Card during a Sept. 2 appearance on the "Today" show.
Consumers can log onto www.FoodAllergyBuddy.com and enter their allergy information, then print out numerous business-sized cards containing their personal allergy data. There's no cost for the cards, which are available in distinct designs suitable for adults or children. In addition, FAB users won't have any confidentiality concerns, since the information entered into the FAB system is not collected.
"The FAB Card is all about clear communication without the embarrassment, and in some situations it can mean the difference between life and death," said Lempert, who is also a Progressive Grocer columnist.
Lempert told Progressive Grocer that he recognized the need for such a card not only through his professional research, but also because one of his family members suffers from a food allergy and has begun using the card when eating out.
Early response from consumers, as well as chefs and waiters, has been "incredibly positive," according to Lempert, with consumers saying that the card makes them feel more secure, while restaurant workers assert that they worry less about getting orders right when patrons present their particular allergy information.
Lempert said he has already contacted many grocery and restaurant industry associations about the FAB Cards, and initial response has been positive, as well, although he added that industry outreach was just in its beginning stages.
According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, more than 11 million consumers suffer from food allergies, and those allergies are the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside the hospital setting, accounting for an estimated 30,000 emergency room visits and 2,000 hospitalizations annually. In addition, it's estimated that as many as 200 people die each year from food allergy-related reactions.
Eight foods make up 90 percent of allergic reactions. They include peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc.), fish, shellfish, eggs, milk, soy, and wheat. As many as 3 million Americans suffer from peanut allergies, which are the leading cause of severe allergic reactions, followed by allergies to shellfish, fish, tree nuts, and eggs.
There are at present no cures for food allergies, and the only successful way to manage them is to avoid those foods that contain the causative proteins. American doctors are reporting an increase in the number of patients with food allergies.
-- Bridget Goldschmidt