How Well Do We Understand Food Allergy Labels?

If you, a family member, or friend has an allergy to foods such as milk, eggs, nuts, or shellfish, you may be familiar with the important process for avoiding the consumption of foods containing these ingredients. While there is an ongoing effort to provide information about any potential allergens foods may contain, there is still confusion associated with food allergy labels.

Food Allergy Label Confusion

CBS News recently wrote an article titled, “The confusing state of food allergy labels,” which discusses research conducted by Dr. Ruchi Gupta, a pediatrician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. The article addresses the gray area with food allergy labels. For example, phrases such as “may contain” or “manufactured on shared equipment” can often be misleading in regards to foods. These phrases don’t specify whether the food definitely contains an ingredient and leaves room for speculation. According to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, advisory statements with text such as “may contain” are currently not required by FALCPA.

Those who answered the survey conducted by Dr. Gupta thought the law required precautionary labels such as “may contain” even though the law does not require this terminology. Many of the respondents also thought labels were based on the number of allergens that might be present in a food product; which is also not the case.

How Can We Stay Safe When Consuming Foods?

The study conducted by Dr. Gupta brings the labeling issues that need to be addressed to light. What can we do to make sure individuals with food allergies have all of the information needed to confidently know if they are safe to eat something?

One of the best solutions to this situation is to steer clear of foods that contain any sort of allergen that could trigger a reaction. While this may be difficult, it is a guaranteed way to remain safe when consuming foods. In addition to this, as food manufacturers we can make sure to always label products with allergens and provide as much information as possible about what they may contain and where the foods are processed.

Many adults and children are affected by food allergies and it is important to always use precautions when consuming potential foods with an allergen. If you are a manufacturer, make sure to have the proper labeling equipment and labels to provide consumers with information about what the product contains.

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