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.

06 August 2008

Is It Time for Standardized Definitions for Allergen-Free Food Claims?

With all the hullaballoo about the expected growth of the specialty food industry for food allergies and intolerances, how many companies are jumping on the bandwagon, proclaiming that their product is “gluten-free” or “nut-free”?  Some of the products never contained gluten in the first place!  And does the fact that a product does not contain peanuts as an ingredient qualify it as “peanut-free”?  Does the entire manufacturing facility need to be dedicated “peanut-free”?  Is a dedicated line good enough to be declared “dairy-free”?  Can a manufacturer switch to making "nut-free" or "gluten-free" products and use the same equipment as before? Is a sanitization protocol adequate to claim a “free-from” product?  What about sanitization combined with allergen testing of the food products?  And what about the suppliers of the ingredients?  Do they need to be “dairy-free” or “soy-free” in order for the finished product to be declared as such?  

What does it mean when a product label bears an allergen-free claim?  Do you telephone or email manufacturers for clarification?  Does the fact that a food is labeled as allergen-free influence your shopping decisions?  

Maybe it is time for the FDA to set standards defining “gluten-free”, “peanut-free” and other allergen-free claims on product packaging and labels.  What do you think?


Sue said...

I tend to not support government mandates and controls because I never feel that it helps the situation. The more they control, the less we as parents and individuals have. I don't find myself calling the manufacturers any less since the new labeling laws went into effect. I don't think more laws would make much of a difference. I see more and more companies taking the initiative because it's good for business. I know the ones I can't get a solid and acceptable answer of don't get my business. The ones that do have a customer for life.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your comment, Sue! I see your point. Sometimes government involvement just causes more problems!

But I am worried about the businesses that say their product is "free" of a particular allergen because they want to charge a higher price for a specialty food item, but may have questionable practices for avoiding cross-contact.

Karen said...

I would like to see allergy statements like made on a dairy free line in a nut free factory, or made in a milk free factory in a nut free section.

Then let US DESIDE what is safe.

Mamique said...

I'm all for standardiziation! Thank you for writing this. I don't call manufacturers, and I know I take the risk when I purchase a product that specifies "manufactured in a facility that also produces peanut products", but I'd rather that than buy something that doesn't have any warnings. Standardized labeling would make my life so much easier.