May was Food Allergy Action Month and brought attention to the seriousness and importance of understanding food allergies.
Labeling food allergens is very important because allergies can be life threatening and are a serious public health problem. In addition to this, the allergies are impacting not only us, but our children as well. According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) food allergies affect up to 10 million Americans, 6 million being children and roughly two in every classroom. 40% of these children have already experienced a severe reaction and 30% have multiple food allergies.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children with food allergies in the U.S. increased 50 percent between 1997 and 2011, but there is no clear answer as to why.
What are “Major Food Allergens?”
It is important to examine what major food allergens are. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) identifies 8 foods or food groups as the major food allergens.
- Crustacean shellfish
- Tree nuts
Required Food Labels
Did you know the FALCPA requires food manufacturers to label food products that contain an ingredient that is or contains protein from a major food allergen in one of two ways?
The first option is for food manufacturers to include the name of the food source in parenthesis. The second option is to place the word “Contains” followed by the name of the food source.
Manufacturers can change their products’ ingredients at any time. If you are unsure about whether a food contains any ingredients to which you are sensitive to, don’t buy the products.
Food labeling laws require food allergens to be identified even in very small amounts — but only when they’re contained as an ingredient. Manufacturers aren’t required to include warnings about food allergens accidentally introduced during manufacturing or packaging (cross-contamination). This common occurrence can cause trouble if you’re very sensitive to food allergens.
Snack Safely created an easy to understand infographic that clearly states a food label can tell you when a food product is not safe, but the label alone cannot tell you whether the product is free of the top 8 allergens that might be unintentionally present due to cross contact. Click here for a better understanding of the limitations of the label.