Aug 08, 2012
Allergies on Attack
By Mama S. LeDish
On a recent trip to the park, I was talking with another mom whose son was playing with my children. There was a man walking a dog without a leash and the mother suddenly got very nervous. She informed me that her son had really bad allergies and she was concerned that the dog might come up and lick him and that would be “bad.” She went on to explain that he was also allergic to gluten, dairy, tree nuts among other environmental allergens.
I have become familiar with allergies over the years, especially since my kids started preschool and our next-door neighbor has a host of allergies, the most serious being tree nuts. I have to be extremely careful when he comes over to make sure that I wipe the tables down, not feed him anything prepared anywhere near tree nuts and if I have come in contact with any, don’t touch him. Based on our family’s hankering for pistachios and almonds, we often snack on them or have them around the house. I think about my anxiety in these situations and even when we have to bring snacks to school since my daughter has a girl in her class with a peanut allergy, and I can only imagine what it would be like to live like that on a day-to-day basis. The woman at the park informed me that the risk at school is so high, she decided to forego preschool and home school him because his allergies are so severe he could die if he comes into contact with some of these items.
According to the USDA, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) requires manufacturers to clearly identify on their food labels if a food product has any ingredients that contain protein derived from any of the eight major allergenic foods and food groups: milk, eggs, fish, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, or soybeans. These eight foods and food groups account for 90 percent of all food allergies. Other allergenic foods (e.g., sesame) are not required to be declared in accordance with FALCPA.
However, according to FDA.com, FALCPA’s labeling requirements do not apply to the potential or unintentional presence of major food allergens in foods resulting from “cross-contact” situations during manufacturing, e.g., because of shared equipment or processing lines. In the context of food allergens, “cross-contact” occurs when a residue or trace amount of an allergenic food becomes incorporated into another food not intended to contain it. FDA guidance for the food industry states that food allergen advisory statements, e.g., “may contain [allergen]” or “produced in a facility that also uses [allergen]” should not be used as a substitute for adhering to current good manufacturing practices and must be truthful and not misleading. The site goes on to say, FDA is considering ways to best manage the use of these types of statements by manufacturers to better inform consumers.
In the meantime, moms like the one I met at the park have to be private investigators and make numerous phone calls to manufacturers to ensure the foods her child consumes have not been cross-contaminated with allergens that could kill her child.
According to Amazing Wellness Magazine, Spring 2012 issue, an article by Kim Erickson, “12 million Americans are allergic to one or more foods. That includes one in every 12 children. And food allergies are on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report an 18 percent jump in cases between 1997 and 2007.”
With these kinds of facts and figures, we can only hope that the laws on labeling for food allergies improves so all those suffering from food allergies can breathe easy knowing their food is safe for themselves and their children.
For more information and resources, please see the following sites:
www.ViviLeDish.com works to provide parents and caregivers with simple recipes using mainly whole foods and each recipe has a reminder to review their allergy checklist.
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