With an eye on the food allergy community as a unique group of consumers since 2008, we're on a quest to find and share ways to continue enjoying the good things in life.


16 July 2018

How SmartLabel Can Help Consumers with Top 8 Food Allergies

The recent discussions on Twitter and Facebook regarding Chips Ahoy packaging made me realize I have never given much thought to packaging for food allergies. I have always thought more about the labeling: how I feel labeling can be improved, especially for individuals managing non top-8 allergies; how some labeling is misleading; the errors in labeling which result in recalls, etc. I never thought about the rest of the package. 

Trying to be introspective and think about my own shopping habits, I remember I have found packaging to be somewhat misleading, when it comes to food allergies. I can't tell you how often I have come across packages that claim contents are "nut-free" but when I've checked the nutrition label to verify ingredients, there has been a voluntary "may contains" for nuts or peanuts. Over the years, I've come to not trust packaging and only go by the nutrition label and list of ingredients on the package. For me, food packaging breaks down into two pieces--the marketing eye-appealing part of a food container, sort of like an advertisement, and the label part with the need-to-know ingredient/nutrition. Truly, it is the rare food package that really gives consumers with top-8 food allergies all the information they need and/or want to know.  Enter SmartLabel.

I've written before about SmartLabel previously. SmartLabel is a tool from a collaborative group called the Trading Partner Alliance, that consists of representatives from both the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute. Take a look at this video:


I think this tool has real possibilities for people in the U.S. managing food allergies.  SmartLabel is now on about half or slightly more than half the products in typical supermarkets already. It looks like food packages will eventually all have QR codes and many (hopefully most!) will participate in SmartLabel, giving us, as consumers, the ability to check for top 8 allergens we need to avoid and to verify the ingredients. Some companies, such as Hershey, are including facility information too. If we as consumers support these manufacturers' efforts to reach out to and better communicate important information to consumers with food allergies thru SmartLabel, it can only help.

*On a personal note, I want to acknowledge food allergy friends with non-top 8 food allergies. The fact that ingredients containing non-top 8 allergens are not required to be listed on food packaged is such an incredibly serious problem. I believe manufacturers should be required to list all ingredients.* 

10 July 2018

Air Travel with Peanut Allergy 2018

By Tmeers91 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
Last night Twitter and Facebook were buzzing about the upcoming end to Southwest Airlines practice of serving peanuts in-flight.
Many who have peanut allergy or whose children have a peanut allergy have, understandably, strong feelings about peanuts being served on flights. Proximity risk and the enclosed space are just two of the factors figuring into that equation.
There have been a few studies published in academic journals regarding in-flight risk/danger for those managing a peanut allergy, but certainly more research is needed for a better understanding of the in-flight risks for travelers with food allergies.
While the academic journal articles are not available to share for free, the "Ministerial Inquiry into Allergies to Peanuts, Nuts and Sesame Seeds in Commercial Air Travel -Report of the Inquiry Officer" is. If you haven't perused it, it's worth a look!


18 April 2018

Sharing: "Ask the Allergist" about Airborne Reactions from Allergic Living Magazine

There is really only one magazine in North America that focuses on food allergies--Allergic Living. I especially appreciate the Ask the Allergist feature where common or frequently asked questions are answered by a top allergist. This one is so good and I see questions about it so often, I feel compelled to share it. It is written by Dr. Scott Sicherer. Keep up the good work, Allergic Living!

16 April 2018

Email from Johnston Rhode Island Gluten-Free Bakery

Dear Readers,

Today I received the below email from a gluten-free bakery in Johnston, Rhode Island. Please note I do not have any photos from this bakery on my blog or my blog's Facebook page. It states:

"I see that my personal picture that you took from my facebook page is still here.  I am going to give you 24 hours to remove it permanently or my business attorney will not only shut this page down but anything else that your name is on.  I am also going to contact the Mass Department of Business Regulation and report you as well as the Attorney General for the state of Mass."

The author of the email is a doctor appears to be affiliated with Miriam Hospital and Rhode Island Hospital. Does anyone know what she is talking about? I sure don't!



20 February 2018

SmartLabel could revolutionize food label reading for those with food allergies

With the advent of SmartLabel, label reading at the supermarket is going to get much easier for those managing food allergies. Though SmartLabel is still in its infancy, we can see what is to come. SmartLabel is an app and tool developed by a collaboration between the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing institute. It provides additional product information when the QR code for a label is scanned with a cell phone camera or when a product is searched by phone or website with a computer. Not only does it provide ingredient information, but the product listings also provide information about shared equipment and shared facilities — precisely the types of information those managing food allergies normally have to call or write to customer service to inquire about.
Even better, the information available on SmartLabel is uploaded by the manufacturer itself and therefore is considered to be the most current informtion, even moreso than what is listed on the packaging itself. No more cross-checking lists from third parties, you will be able to zap that package at the supermarket and get the allergen information you need instantaneously, for top 8 allergens as defined by the FDA.
Since SmartLabel is a creation of the food manufacturing industry, just how much information is provided is up to the manufacturers. They already are going above and beyond what is required by FDA by providing voluntary allergen information such as shared equipment and facilities. We are hopeful that more products will contain voluntary warning information for shared equipment and shared facilities and that manufacturers will also choose to provide information about additional allergens outside the top 8. This type of information is so important to those managing food allergies. After all, avoiding one’s allergen can be a matter of life and death.
Consumers value transparency about ingredients and manufacturing processes. Food allergy consumers value it more than the typical consumer because for them, it is a medical necessity. Eating food containing the wrong ingredient can result in a life threatening allergic reaction. We have high hopes for SmartLabel and the opportunity it presents for transparency about ingredients and possible cross-contamination with allergens. If you or a loved one have a food allergy, please give SmartLabel a try, give them some feedback and encouragement. Also take a moment and visit their website at http://www.smartlabel.org/. It could be the next great food allergy tool. It would be great to see that happen.

02 February 2018

Food Allergy Consumer Tip Fridays: Food Allergies at the Dentist

By Jonas Bergsten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Content on www.foodallergybuzz.com is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. 

If you are managing food allergies or your child has food allergies, it is wise to notify the dentist of the food allergies. Ingredients should be checked for anything that is going in the mouth during a dental visit. Fortunately, in terms of food allergies, there is not much to check on aside from fluoride, toothpaste and polishing paste. There are, of course, other allergies one needs to keep in mind when visiting the dentist such as latex allergies or a nickel allergy.

A cursory search in Google Scholar shows that most reactions to dental materials tend to be to the metals in dental materials. No articles about food allergens and dental materials jump out. There are, however, a few dental products, which may contain food or food additives. A 2012 blog post on rdh.com (Registered Dental Hygienist) entitled Food Allergy Awareness lists several substances used by dentists which may contain food or food products. The author, Michele A. Fagan, EFDA, RDH, BS provides the following list:

  • "Recaldent is a milk derivative (may be listed as casein) - found in GC America's MI paste, toothpastes, and some forms of Trident gum.
  •  Polishing paste - contains gluten (causes gastrointestinal disorder)
  • Fluorides - can contain gluten or nut oils
  • Topical anesthesia - contains fruit flavorings
  • Propofol - general anesthesia that contains egg protein
  • Cements - eugenol is derived from oil of cloves
  • Nitrous oxide - does not specifically contain egg, but it has a substance that is molecularly structured like eggs and reactions have been reported" 
**A reader with a science background pointed out the above quote has some inaccurate info. Propofol does not contain egg protein. Rather it contains egg phospholipds and therefore should not cause allergic reactions. A cursory check of scholarly articles on Propofol and egg, however, indicate there are a few records--not many--of reactions by individuals with egg allergy to Propfol despite the absence of egg protein in the medicine. See N.J.N. Harper's article entitle "Propofol and Food Allergy" in the British Journal of Anaesthesia, Volume 116, Issue 1, 1 January 2016, pp. 11-13 (Published Decmber 16 2015) for additional information:  https://academic.oup.com/bja/article/116/1/11/2566111  **

Please note: the list quoted above is not an exhaustive list nor is it intended to cause alarm. In addition, the list is from only one source; there may be other, more accurate or complete lists available. It's always prudent to do your due diligence and research for information. Dentist visits are a topic that pops up periodically in food allergy discussion groups. Keep in mind, the great majority of individuals with food allergies go to the dentist without incident, just like everyone else, but it's always a good idea to inquire. With the rising number of people with food allergies, your dentist probably has already provided the same ingredient info to other patients and has likely vetted the products he or she uses, with allergies in mind.

26 January 2018

Food Allergy Consumer Tip Fridays: Highly Refined Oils on Food Labels


from https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/Allergens/ucm106187.htm

A question that pops on a regular basis in food allergy discussion groups, especially peanut allergy focused groups is this: 
why isn't peanut listed as an allergen when peanut oil is an ingredient?

Highly refined oils from one of the top eight allergens are not considered to contain the protein which causes allergic reactions. While you may disagree with the veracity of this statement, highly refined oils--since the are not considered to contain reaction-causing proteins--do not need to be listed as a top 8 allergen on food labels.

It's a good idea to always read the entire label and all the ingredients. Not every label will list allergens in bold and ingredients can change from one grocery store trip to another. Read every label every time.