If you’re the one who shops for your family’s groceries, and someone in your household has food allergies, the task can be challenging, and not necessarily foolproof.
In 2004, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act was passed by Congress requiring manufacturers to label pre-packaged foods if they contain peanuts, soybeans, tree nuts, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish or wheat. This means that if there isn’t a warning on a package saying that the product contains any of those ingredients, the product should be safe to eat for people with any of those allergies.
However, trace amounts of these – or any other allergen – can still be present in the food. This can occur through cross-contamination with other products that were manufactured on the same equipment and which may have left small particles or residue in the food processing facility. Some food companies have taken the extra step to include warnings such as “may contain traces of tree nuts” or “manufactured on the same equipment that processes peanuts”, but these practices are unregulated and can mean different things to different manufacturers. To a highly allergic individual, even trace amounts of an allergenic food can result in serious health consequences.
How to minimize the chance of buying products with something you or your family member is allergic to?
Read the ingredients listing on the package. Stay clear of any product that has precautionary labeling of allergens you or your family must avoid. For products about which you are unsure, contact manufacturers and ask specifically about the processing facility in which the food in question is made. Finally, seek out the growing number of food companies that specifically manufacture in an allergen-free environment, appealing to consumers with food allergy concerns.