The Facts About Food Allergies
Asking questions and being informed can help you cope
Read Labels continued...
Understanding label terminology is key to avoiding food allergens. Milk may
be referred to by its components "whey" or "casein," and eggs
can appear on a label as "albumin." Avoiding breads and cereals is
relatively easy for those with a gluten allergy. But traces of
wheat can be found in some lunch meats, soy sauce, soups, malt vinegar -- even
jelly beans. These minute amounts are not always listed on the ingredient
On Jan. 1, 2006, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act went
into effect. This law requires manufacturers to identify wheat and other grains
to which people may be sensitive on product labels. Potentially allergenic
substances must be identified by commonly known names -- so no longer will you
need to know that lactalbumin contains milk.
Yet even with the new law, declaring every ingredient can be a daunting
task. Minute amounts of allergenic substances can be used to make spices, and
some manufacturers who use them may not realize they contain an offending
ingredient. Further, sometimes the entire list of ingredients won't fit on a
particular food label.
When food companies are unsure of potential ingredients, their labels often
indicate that the product "may contain" a certain ingredient.
Companies change formulas, and it is a constant challenge to make sure your
foods are free of allergens. For example, simply changing lecithin to soy
lecithin makes the product unacceptable for anyone with a soybean allergy.
Consumers who are extremely sensitive to a particular item should make it a
practice to contact manufacturers to make sure the offending ingredient is not
contained in products they buy.
Most anyone with food allergies can tell you about their favorite brands
that are free of offending allergens. Specialty food manufacturers understand
what their clients need.
Better Safe Than Sorry
Meals prepared away from home are not routinely labeled with ingredients.
The most frequent reactions to foods occur in a restaurant, or as a result of
food carried out from a restaurant.
When eating out, keep it simple and avoid anything that is unknown. Ask
questions, and consider printing up a card with a list of your allergies for
your waiter to share with the chef.