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.

30 June 2019

Food Allergies and Labeling: Exercise Your Power

I saw a tweet earlier today and I cannot stop thinking about it. I was surprised and a bit disappointed to see criticism of Whole Foods for something they are not required by law to do--provide information on the label or packaging regarding cross-contact/cross-contamination. But, we are all entitled to our opinion, and food allergy reactions can be absolutely terrifying! The customer had a severe reaction to a bakery item that was labeled as "vegan" and believed there had been cross-contamination with non-vegan ingredients. Thankfully, the customer is ok. Very scary!!! 

Please note the FDA does not regulate the use of the terms "vegan" or "vegetarian." It is potentially dangerous to assume those terms mean a food does not contain traces of eggs or dairy. 

I must admit that I have seen many customer stories about reactions to cross-contamination in Whole Foods bakery items over the years. Unfortunately, supermarket bakeries are notorious for cross-contamination. Often times, there is a CYA statement on supermarket bakery items because of the cross-contamination risk. It is our responsibility, as consumers, to read labels for the food allergies we manage. If you need to know about shared facilities or shared equipment, don't make assumptions. If the information is not clearly on the label, ask! It is up to us, the consumers, to look out for ourselves, and why shouldn't it be? We need to know how food should be labeled (by law), and if we need more information than is provided on the label, it is up to us to ask! We can read, we can advocate for ourselves, and ask questions. We have power! 

People with food allergies are not helpless. They are not victims. They are not vulnerable. Feel empowered, for you have a great deal of power and control over what you choose to eat. Exercise your power. Ask questions, and when in doubt, do without. 

Can food labeling be improved in the United States? Of course! I am not saying it is perfect or that it should stay as it is, but it is always our responsibility as consumers to look out for ourselves in the context of existing labeling laws. 

My food labeling dream: I would love to see all ingredients labeled on food packaging in the United States. That would be a fantastic improvement, and I think a realistic one. Why focus on 8 allergens when people can have allergic reactions to over 100 foods? 

What is your food labeling dream?

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