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.* 

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