Food allergy post: May 2011

It’s hard to believe, but the end of May is here, and so is my promised allergy-related post of the month. I thought I’d start with a few of the more basic things I had to learn related to food allergies, and it all started with labels.

So for those of you out there that don’t follow any particular diet or have any restrictions as far as nutrition, reading the label is probably not high on your list of priorities when you hit the grocery. Of course, packaging plays our purchasing habits whether you read the back of the box or not, but for the most part that’s due to buzz words like “whole grain” or “no trans fat” plastered all over the front panel. What concerns those affected by food allergies or on a restricted diet, however, is usually in smaller print than the “calcium enriched” splash across the label.

Reading ingredient lists is extremely important for those on special diets, because even if there are big words on the front, or claims that the product is free of certain allergens, the ingredient list may tell a different story. There have been any number of recalls due to what is essentially false advertising when a product identifies itself as allergen-free on the front, but lists an allergen in the ingredients list. Cloudy, confusing, overwhelming stuff, huh?

It’s not all so bad, though. To tell you the truth, I’ve found a lot of comfort in looking more carefully at the ingredients of products, because it allows me to understand so much better what it is that I’m eating. Yes, there have been some disturbing moments in the various aisles as well as brief moments of disbelief as I deciphered all of those mono- tri- cyclo- glyceride- gum things. Finding out what stuff is really made of can be frightening. Overall, though, knowing what you’re getting so that you can make a more educated decision is more positive than negative, and if you’ve got a food allergy, it’s an absolute imperative.

That said, I’ve made a list of some common terms I’ve seen on allergy-friendly and not-so-allergy-friendly food packages.

  • “May contain”: This is a safeguard for both the company and the consumer. It is a voluntary admission that lets the consumer know that if they’ve got allergies, this product probably isn’t safe, but to me that puts a big X on that food because who wants to take a chance?
  • “Processed in a shared facility / shared equipment”: This is another common labeling technique that warns food allergic consumers that the food may contain trace amounts of whatever allergen is listed after it.
  • “Gluten-free”: This is also a voluntary term used to identify foods that are free of any wheat, barley, or rye. A lot of foods are naturally gluten-free, so reading the label can actually help you discover some options that don’t come right out and put that term on their labels.

That’s my short list of important terms on food packaging to look out for. I’ll write again with more food allergy info next month!

And before I finish this up, I’d like to share my appreciation for all of the hard work and sacrifices made by our military men and women. Without the brave sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers that volunteer to protect us, we wouldn’t have the freedom that we so enjoy. Thank you to every active duty, veteran, and family member of military personnel out there. Love, Meg

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2 Comments to “Food allergy post: May 2011”

  1. Thank you Meg. My last five years and from now on is been all about the labels. My 5 year old has milk and tree nut food allergies. It means a lot to see someone who cares enough to go that extra step for their consumers. So many things can be hidden in food. One more tricky thing is they don’t have to list spices individually and who knows what they consider a spice. We also have to watch out for Carmel color because it could be derives from Milk. Any way thank you again:)

    • Thank you for the tips Gayle! It’s been challenging to keep track of all of the dangerous ingredients – there are so many. Food allergies are something I will continue to advocate for because I really believe in everyone, no matter what diet they follow, enjoying food together. Please send along any other info you think might help, and I’ll post it in my next food allergy blog! Again, thank you, and thanks for reading 🙂

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