For Food Allergy Awareness Week in May, Enjoy Life Foods teamed up with our favorite Allergy Mom, Gina Clowes, to discuss food allergy labeling and finding safe allergy-friendly foods. The company is continuously working on transparency to help prevent allergic reactions, and advocates like Gina provide useful insight from an allergy parent’s perspective.
Most experienced parents of kids with food allergies know the importance of reading ingredient statements carefully. But as more and more kids are diagnosed with food allergies, less experienced parents may think a term like ‘allergy-free’ is enough.
So Gina has the following tips to help consumers as they seek allergy-friendly products.
10 Label-Reading Tips to Find Safe Allergy-Friendly Foods
- No label = no thank you. Never eat a prepared food that does not have a label.
- Carefully read every ingredient statement. Different versions of the same food can have different ingredients. For example, chewy Spree candy contains egg white while original Spree does not.
- Don’t let different sizes slide. Different sizes of the same foods can contain different ingredients. For example, some “mini” versions of Laffy Taffy do not contain egg, but the large size does contain egg.
- Don’t rely on common sense to determine if foods are safe. Tuna and flavored water can contain dairy, egg rolls and chili can contain peanut butter, licorice and soy sauce can contain wheat, and the list goes on. Manufacturers use all types of ingredients to get textures, flavors, and shelf-life just right.
- Take all precautionary warnings seriously. Manufacturers use different statements to warn consumers like “may contain” or “processed in a facility with.” However, the language used does not indicate the level of risk.
- Know that precautionary warnings are voluntary. If a product doesn’t have a warning, that does not mean it’s free of cross contamination. When in doubt, call the company to find out where and how the product was processed.
- Don’t play ingredient roulette. Even if you or your child once ate a product with a warning, that does not mean the next batch will be safe. Always check the ingredients to see that their recipe or sourcing hasn’t changed.
- Don’t count on the “contain” statement. Manufacturers can make allergens clear in the ingredients, or in a contains statement following the ingredients, and there isn’t further regulation on how they do it. For example, many companies use contain statements, but don’t put Milk in the contains statement when the product has dairy butter in it.
- Know where the food is made. Seek out products that say they are made in a “dedicated dairy-free, peanut-free, nut-free, soy-free, or allergy-free facility,” depending on your diet restriction. This provides even further assurance of the food’s safety.
- Contact the company. They should know their processes better than anyone. Ask about their allergen protocols to determine if their products are safe for your needs. If they aren’t sure, then move on. Truly allergy-friendly companies know exactly how their products are produced.