Allergy Warning: This Post May Contain Traces of frustration, dissatisfaction and/or any and all other passions and emotions. May not be suitable for those who are satisfied with current US labeling laws.
It’s no doubt that labeling for the top eight food allergies is a life-saver (no pun intended), for many families and individuals who are suffering from the top eight food allergens. But there are still many Americans who are spending hours upon hours making phone calls and researching food products to determine if the food they buy for their family and loved ones is actually safe to eat.
It’s not only because they are concerned about the validity of what is written on a food label, but also because they may not be suffering from a top eight allergen. Perhaps they’re one of many who have an allergen that is not one of the top eight?
The fact is, our food labeling laws exists but they could be better. When FALCPA was passed nearly a decade ago, it was a huge step towards the safety for the food allergy community, not the mention the awareness it helped spread. However, it’s now 2015, nearly 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies, and even with my small experience as a part of the food allergy community, I believe that we can do a lot better.
Among my interactions with various members of the Food Allergy community, I have noted some issues that I find re-occurring in conversation:
1.) Cross contamination warnings should be more standard.
“may contain…” “contains traces of…” “produced a facility…” what does that even mean? Voluntary labeling for cross contamination, though seemingly safe, could not only be hurting the consumer, but also the manufacturer. The lack of standardization for cross contamination labeling seems to be either over-done, or non-existent - a problem that confuses both the consumer and the producer.
2.) The phrase “Good manufacturing practices” still leaves the consumer with questions.
It seems as if consumers would rather “play it safe” than trust those three words. It’s a step in the right direction, but there must be a way we can make this phrase a little more convincing, or a least more understandable.
3.) Maybe eight just isn’t enough.
Although much less common than wheat, egg, shellfish, or soy, allergens like mustard, sesame, and celery are also prevalent. Allergens like these are also more likely to sneak into ingredients like “natural flavors.”
Although these may be generalizations of very serious issues, I felt the need to begin a conversation, or at the very least, contribute to it. After all, before there is any action, there must be discussion. More next week on labeling laws and what we can do to make them better.