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.

04 December 2016

Food Allergy Outrage

I just saw a post sharing information about Hostess adding peanut flour to their list of ingredients, and that came on the heels of the Krispy Kreme announcement about using tree nuts. It may sound silly to some people, but ingredient changes in donuts and other foods are news in the food allergy community. As people managing food allergies, we must know about ingredients because it can become a matter of life and death. Over the years, I have noticed we always are losing a few "safe" products and then gaining a few new ones. That's life with food allergies. Sometimes, however, people get a little carried away, even emotional about ingredient changes. Only a few months ago, there was quite an uproar among some peanut allergy families about the addition of peanut flour to cheese and crackers made by Kellogg's. There was even a petition circulated. Talk about not being able to see the forest through the trees...

Let's just be direct about it:

Companies that truly are food allergy friendly act like it. 

Food allergy friendly manufacturers use voluntary "may contains" labeling. They are transparent about their manufacturing and labeling practices, and their ingredients. They indicate whether other top 8 allergens are present in the facility. They don't give vague shrouded answers to inquiries from people managing food allergies that practically need a lawyer for interpretation. Look at Enjoy Life Foods. I think we can agree they are pretty much the gold standard for labeling and transparency for people with food allergies. 

When Hostess gave factory numbers for people to figure out which Ho-Hos were "safe", that was a red flag. To me, that meant this company is not peanut allergy friendly. I thought since they make products with peanuts, it was just a matter of time before they will need to do so at that special numbered factory I keep reading about in the food allergy groups on Facebook. The fact that they are now adding peanut flour to the end of the list of ingredients means exactly what I already knew--they are not peanut allergy friendly! This is not surprising news. If they were truly peanut allergy friendly, they would have labeled the "safe" product as "peanut-free" or "made in a peanut-free facility".  They never did. Adding peanut flour is giving them flexibility that they obviously feel they need. It probably isn't economically efficient to have 1 or 2 facilities be peanut-free. I imagine it must have been like having one hand tied behind their corporate back. Now, they have the flexibility to move product manufacturing around however is best. It is a simple dollars and cents thing, and should not be surprising to any of us. Just another reminder to read the label. Every. Single. Time. It is our responsibility as consumers.

This is business. It is capitalism at work. Hostess wasn't ever that peanut allergy friendly. There  always have been some of us who manage peanut allergies/tree nut allergies and avoided those products. The fact that they made any products containing peanut made them off limits for my family; I always felt there might be a last minute need for them to switch facilities and doubted they would think to warn those people who knew about the secret peanut-free factory numbers. It's not like they advertised the secret peanut-free factory identification numbers. It was this weird bit of information you might find in food allergy groups on Facebook, not exactly well publicized by Hostess, and there were reasons for that. Believe me, if they wanted to be known as having peanut-free facilities, they would have been shouting it from the mountain tops.

This is not something to write a petition about, just like Kellogg's-gate, the peanut flour infused-cheese and crackers episode. These ingredient changes, while disappointing, pale in comparison to more serious food allergy problems, such as the recent passing of Oakley Debbs, whose parents did not receive essential information about when to use an Epi-pen. Let's stop and reflect on that for a moment. Because they did not know how to treat the symptoms they were witnessing--due to the lack of information they received--Oakley's parents don't have Oakley with them anymore. Fellow parents of children with food allergies, can you think of anything more painful, more heartbreaking, more horrible? I can't even type this without emotion blurring the keys on my keyboard. Where is the outrage about the lack of information about anaphylaxis some individuals with food allergies receive from their doctors??? 

How much effort and emotion went into people petitioning Kellogg's about cheese and crackers, when we have countless food allergy families around the United States who aren't receiving life saving information from their doctors??? Where are our priorities? As a parent of a child with peanut and tree nut allergies, I felt embarrassed by the petition about the ingredient change in Kellogg's cheese and crackers. I feel embarrassed about the emotional reactions I see in response to Krispy Kreme Donut ingredient changes and Hostess ingredient changes.

Let's pour our emotions and efforts into something that truly makes an important difference in people's lives. Every family that has a relative with food allergies in the United States should be informed about the risk for anaphylaxis, how to recognize the symptoms, and what to do when it happens. Where is the outrage about our collective failure to reach those families?? If anything justifies our anger and our outrage, it is this. We can do better than this, and we owe it to all our food allergy angels.

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