Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Is It Me, Or Are Allergy Labels Getting Way Wackier???

OK, I do appreciate companies that label possible food allergens, but I'm starting to get suspicious about some of them.

Here's what set me off most recently: I received a bunch of BBQ spices from a popular gourmet food/cookware retailer as a gift last weekend. Each spice blend was emblazoned with a label claiming that it was processed on equipment that had previously come into contact with ALL of the "top 8" food allergens.

This same store sells colored sugars (for decorating cakes and cookies) that are also labeled as coming into contact with ALL top 8 food allergens.

Call me crazy but since when does colored sugar get processed on the same equipment as shellfish???

I think you probably know where I'm going with this. Fearing liability, certain companies are now proclaiming that all of their food products contain every top food allergen in an attempt to scare off allergic consumers. In other words, they are not reporting responsibly or truthfully on the contents of their foods. They are including allergy labels only to exclude allergic consumers. They don't wanna get sued, people, and so they're taking it to the extreme.

In a response to one of my previous posts, one mom said a similar situation happened to her at Olive Garden restaurants--they claimed that all of their food may contain peanuts. Unlikely??? You bet. But there it is. Who among us wants to take the risk? Still, I think we're being taken for a ride.

I've got an e-mail into the gourmet retailer quizzing them on their allergy labels. I'll let you know what they say.

Frustrating! We don't want to be uninformed about potential allergens but some of these places are taking it too far. And it feels discriminatory to me.

6 comments:

Jennifer B said...

I loved this post. You are 100% right. I have noticed the same thing. It is, in some cases, absurd, but who would chance it, as you point out? Until labels are more reliable, I cook as much as possible from scratch and stick to familiar products which seem to be safe based on our experience. I guess we are pretty much at their mercy, aren't we?

Berta said...

Yep, I know what you mean. I have seen this label myself. Mmmmm, lobster and colored sugar. Sounds yummy. ;-) I think they are covering their rears. BUT I would rather have that than nothing. Olive Garden. Actually my son has reacted at Olive Garden, to the bread sticks we think. His peanut reaction was only GI at that time. It was his tree nut reactions that were so bad. Anyways, I know, bad mommy. This was early on in the food allergy dx and we were still learning. But we avoid it now.

Medical Mom said...

It's an absolute maze of confusing information out there. I have found that most of the labels are either completely lacking an allergy statement or claim to contain all of the big 8 allergens. I have resolved myself to making all that I can from scratch and only buying products from companies with what appear to be truthful allergy labels. I have sent several Emails to retailers and producers that either do not supply allergy warnings or who use blanket statements to cover themselves. I am sure that my one message won't cause them to change, but I am hoping that if more people remind them that over 12 million people and their families are dealing with food allergies, they will discover that having reliable labels isn't just the right thing to do, it's also good business as those of us dealing with allergies would be extremely loyal customers!

Jake said...

I've heard that the "produced in a facility that also..." labelling is completely voluntary.

http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/alrgqa.html

"Advisory statements are not required by FALCPA."

Jenny said...

Right, thanks for pointing that out.

I appreciate those advisory statements, because that will often determine if I allow my daughter to eat the food in question.

The frustration that a lot of us feel has to do with companies that say their foods are processed "on the same equipment as" all the top 8 allergens--no matter what the food is. (Such as the colored sugar I mentioned, that claims to be contaminated with all the food allergens including shellfish.)

It's hard to know what to believe and to be a truly informed consumer. But progess has been made and hopefully it will continue.

lizzyb said...

I too noticed odd labelling on W&S BBQ sauces - noticably the combo of "may contain shellfish" and orthodox kosher certification. These two things NEVER GO TOGETHER. When I called the organization that provides the O-U certification, they indicated that a product may be certified if it had trace level or lower of any food substance. They offered that retailers, especially those who *re-brand* items prepared by other manufacturers often use a general "one size fits all" allergen warning on their store labelled items. That way, they don't carry responsiblity for other manufacturers' products. Probably the same for Trader Joes - who does Private label from other food manufacturers.