Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Food Allergy News: Caution: Changing Labels!

Check the labels every time is a mantra I repeat to myself at the grocery store and something I strongly advise anyone to do if dealing with a life-threatening food allergy. We can know what to do -- but it only works if we actually do it.

We all make mistakes with food allergy  management, me included. But sometimes these mistakes are valuable learning experiences, especially if nothing bad happens as a result. The other day I was in a big hurry rushing around to get items from the store. Long story short, I wanted to get some olives for my husband and kids (they love Greek olives) so I grabbed some at SuperTarget, giving a cursory glance to the ingredients list and then tossing it in my cart.

I was over-confident because a) I'd bought these before, and b) I wasn't paying attention to the "imported" part (imported foods are usually a higher food allergy risk) and c) the Target brand olives I'd bought in the past were safe.

When I go through the store, I am reading labels but admittedly, like anyone else, I try to save time. And even though I've been dealing with nut allergies for years and I KNOW that there is no logic involved in food items and which ones "may contain" peanuts or tree nuts, I still felt pretty safe with Greek olives due to all of our past experiences with them.

Now, at the end of the day, this was a mistake that was caught in time. By my daughter, not by me, who went to open the package, read the label and showed it to me.

My daughter has always questioned me before eating the foods I bring home from the store and I've always encouraged it because I want her to learn how to deal with it but also--I'm human. I might miss something and she can read, so she should get in the habit of checking things herself.

I'm sharing this story because I believe some positive things came from it. First of all, my daughter proved that she is always checking her own labels . Yes! It's sunk in after all of these years -- and for those of you just starting out with peanut allergies, tree nut allergies and other food allergies, that's why I encourage teaching your kids to check foods from an early age.

Second of all, I learned that labels in stores are changing rapidly to keep pace with allergies, labeling laws and their own changing company policies due to consumer input. I'm glad the allergy warning was on the product, that is great and kudos to Target for their thorough labeling policy. But I didn't do my part. If labels ARE there, we can't become immune and we can never assume. We've got to read the darn things, every time.

For anyone who thinks they are being over the top for checking with companies and studying food labels each and every time they visit the grocery store--you're not. Keep up the good work.

I'm now instituting a triple check system for foods--once in the store, once in the checkout line and then once while I'm putting everything away. And of course, bless her, my daughter will still check foods before eating them.

Anyone else have a food label change on them suddenly? It's happening more and more it seems so lesson learned: don't assume about any food. Check the labels and prevent a possible allergic reaction.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I quickly purchased the carrot sticks at the local Target Snack Bar. After opening it and letting my P/A daughter eat a carrot which I never would have thought could be a danger-on the label "may contain peanuts". A raw carrot??? Target and Trader Joe's seem to have the most products processed with nuts, which is a shame.

Anonymous said...

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hsw said...

Yes, yes, yes to all of this. Labels are changing and we do make mistakes sometimes in reading. I had white vinegar I was sure was corn derived and then I checked again and it was grain derived. I have no idea how I misread it but it happens. The hard thing is when you have non top 8 allergies at play as well, my daughter's oat allergy is almost as severe as her tree nut one, for example. Thanks for a great post!

EJW said...

Recently went to Trader Joe's and almost everything has some sort of nut warning. I used to buy stuff there all the time, but it seems like every time I go there, there are more and more items with these warnings.

Unknown said...

Not sure about Target but I know that Trader Joes has a lot of "May contain..." and Made in the same Facility as..." because many products are brought into their distribution centers where they centrally repackage them and send them to their stores with their label on them. So even though you might be buying something from the meat department which may be in a completely separate area from anything with nuts, they still have to provide that statement. They put that label on nearly EVERYTHING! I would have to take a guess that the same thing occurs with Target products. Too many products under one roof!

Unknown said...

Not sure about Target but I know that Trader Joes has a lot of "May contain..." and "Made in the same Facility as..." because many products are brought into their distribution centers where they centrally repackage them and send them to their stores with their label on them. So even though you might be buying something from the meat department which may be in a completely separate area from anything with nuts, they still have to provide that statement. They put that label on nearly EVERYTHING! I would have to take a guess that the same thing occurs with Target products. Too many products under one roof!

Anonymous said...

A bag of unpopped popcorn from walmart was recently labeled as may contain trace amounts of peanuts. It was a good distance below the ingredients and we didn't think to check when we purchased.

Anonymous said...

Jelly Belly jellybeans at Costco have 2 area on label with allergy warning 1 mentioned tree nuts and 1 did not. Of course I read the one that didn't and did not look any further. My daughter also always read labels and caught it. I returned to costco and expalined how dangerous the labeling was, not sure if they ever changed it though.

Anonymous said...

I recently found out that a Golden Grahams snack bar was made on the same equipment as peanuts, after having a reaction to them and wondering why a non-labeled box would cause problems. Apparently the company changed its production but didn't update its packaging to reflect the change yet. That's pretty disturbing.

I only recently developed a peanut allergy at 20 years old, so it's been a tough process to get into reading labels and figuring out where to go and what to do for food.

Victoria L. said...

Late last year, Trader Joe's changed suppliers or manufacturers for their organic peanut butter, and it suddenly had tree nut contamination. Devastating. I had to search through every brand available locally and finally found Santa Cruz Organics had a non-frightening label.

I bought a case.

The hardest thing for me right now is that *I*, the mom, am the tree-nut allergic person; my daughter THINKS she is allergic, because I can't let her have any nuts, and we can't hardly do at-home challenges because I can't touch her when she's nut-contaminated, etc. Summer camp and next year's pre-K are stringently tree nut and peanut-free, and I gladly bought Sunbutter in preparation. Yikes.

Heard about you on WBEZ.

Anonymous said...

I recently realizes that the chopped broccoli, cauliflower and fruit from Whole Foods has a warning that it is Processed in a facility that uses milk egg fish shellfish tree nuts peanuts wheat soy and sesame. I couldn't believe fresh cut fruits and veggies had these warnings.

Anonymous said...

My son use to drink Silk Very Vanilla Soy Milk for years. One day while I was making his breakfast, I noticed the 'May contain' or 'Made in the same facility' notice on the label. I think it was about the time they came out with their almond milk. My son was so upset; he had a dairy allergy when he was younger, so he was so use to the Silk Very Vanilla. We definitely need to keep checking labels.