70% of UK Kids Feel Socially Excluded Because of their Dietary Requirements

As the number of British children with intolerances and food allergies continues to grow, with 5-8% of kids having a proven food allergy, new research reveals that 70% of kids feel socially excluded because of their dietary requirements.

The study, carried out by Asda, also uncovered that over half (54%) of UK parents admit to not inviting kids with dietary requirements to after school get-togethers or parties because they’re nervous about feeding them the wrong thing and causing harm.

As kids head back to school, food allergies and intolerances have become a hot topic, with more than half (58%) of UK children with specific dietary requirements previously reporting a reaction to something they’ve eaten, and three in five (60%) having been to hospital as a result.

Asda’s research highlights that this feeling of exclusion amongst kids also means they’re avoiding talking about allergies and intolerances when away from home. 47% of kids weren’t sure what food caused their allergic reaction, with a quarter (26%) too shy to say anything about dietary requirements, and a fifth (20%) too embarrassed to speak-out about it suffering a reaction as a result.

A further 68% of these kids have gone hungry when away from home, with 71% skipping a meal completely because the correct food wasn’t available.

With 67% of parents with kids requiring specific diets frequently relying on wider networks for childcare, it’s concerning that friends’ homes (43%) were uncovered as the most common place for allergic reactions to happen – leaving parents feeling stressed about food safety out of the home.

On the flip side, 65% of people who have catered for a child with a specific allergy or intolerance admitted to feeling anxious about doing the right thing. A further 54% of these parents saying they have actively avoided inviting children with specific food needs around altogether out of worry.

Amena Warner, Allergy UK Head of Clinical Services, comments: “We understand the challenges families with food allergies face every day and feeling excluded from or at social occasions is an unfortunate reality. There’s an immediate need to educate wider networks on how to cater for children with allergies to both alleviate anxieties and protect the health and wellbeing of those with specific food requirements.”

To help change this imbalance and alter the conversation on dietary requirements from negative to positive, focusing on what those with dietary restrictions can eat rather than what they can’t, Asda is campaigning to champion inclusivity, working with a series of parents of kids with allergies, helping remove the stigma around dietary requirements and ensuring a more seamless and stress-free back to school moment for everyone.

Based on research findings and ahead of kids going back to school, Asda has introduced a guide to inclusive eating, cutting through the confusion and easing the anxieties around dietary requirements with practical advice, kitchen hacks and tips on how to cater to dietary requirements with ease.

Jo Johnson, Senior Manager Asda Own Brand Innovation, comments: “We’re dedicated to helping make sure allergies and intolerances aren’t seen as a burden, or too difficult to cater for. Armed with the right help and advice, all households can become an inclusive environment, and we really hope Asda’s guide will be a positive starting point for this and the beginning of the end to social exclusion of kids with specific food requirements”

“Working with our customers and parents, we will continue championing inclusivity to drive a real step change in the way we talk about allergies and intolerances. With our research revealing that 60% of British households now have a member of the family with a specific dietary need or preference, it’s increasingly important to help to educate wider social networks and alleviate anxieties around food safety.”

Jo continues: “As well as education, we know there’s a real demand for Free From products – in fact, half the nation purchased a ‘Free From’ product during the first three months of 2017***. This means we are dedicated to further investing and innovating in the category to create tasty products that fit seamlessly into recipes and routines.”

Asda’s Inclusivity Guide can be downloaded here.

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