Until There is a Cure, Avoidance is Key!
While avoiding a food allergen may sound easy, you will learn there is a myriad of ways a “safe” food may come in contact with an allergen, therefore making it unsafe.
Becoming a Vigilant Label Reader!
Becoming a vigilant label reader is essential to the safety of those with food allergies. It is imperative that you know what is in all foods and the potential for cross-contamination. In 2004 the FDA implemented Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). While this act has certainly made life easier, it also has some inconsistencies in labeling that you should be aware of.
Inconsistencies in product labeling: While the FLACPA has certainly made life easier, it also has a number of inconsistencies. Not all allergen warnings are listed in a consistent place. While the majority are listed under the ingredients, many warnings are inconspicuous and located in areas on the package that you might not look for.
The labeling itself can be inconsistent. Look at this Peanut M & M’s package, it does not list peanuts in the allergen, put “may-contain” almonds. There is also the question of Made in a facility or made on shared equipment. We definitely do not eat shared equipment in our home but “made in a facility” can be questionable. Sometimes out of principle for the fact that the company cannot feel comfortable with how they handle and store allergens we cast our vote with a “no-purchase”.
Understanding Cross Contamination: When a food that is usually considered a “safe food” comes in contact with peanuts or nuts making it unsafe. This can happen through: Manufacturing processes, such as shared food lines, shared cooking or serving utensils or someone’s touch. There are a number of ways a “safe” food can come in contact with allergens. For example:
Shared cooking or serving utensils.
* Someone making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich puts the knife from the peanut butter into the jelly. Now when someone comes to use the jelly it has been contaminated with peanut butter.
*Transferring allergens through serving utensils such as scoopers for bulk items and ice cream. The utensils can carry allergens from one product to another.
*A person grabs a handful of peanuts and then uses the same hand to grab chips.
Open ingredients such as toppings in yogurt shops. While each might have its own scooper when someone is scooping there is a chance that foods for example peanuts may fall into the chocolate chips.
- Eating out: There is a great deal of opportunity for cross-contamination in restaurants. While the education has gotten better each scenario can be unique and I say “trust your gut” on this one. You will quickly learn to identify those servers and chefs that truly understand the dangers of food allergies and whether or not they feel they can provide a safe environment.
Importance of reading every label every time! In addition to the fact that ingredients change, they can also come from different manufacturing facilities in different parts of the country. While one facility may be safe the other may not. Take a look at these Pop Tarts. My husband called me from the store and said do you let Ryan eat these French Toast Pop Tarts. I said “yes”. He said “they have eggs”. I said “no they don’t”. Well oddly enough, same Pop Tart, different ingredients.