My 15-month-old son was recently diagnosed with allergies to peanuts and eggs. I've read several materials from the Food Allergy Network to understand more about this, as well as how to buy foods without those ingredients.
But one ingredient has really stumped me: natural flavorings. I understand that a manufacturer could use peanuts as a flavoring and list it as natural flavorings on the label, so ideally one would avoid those products. But now that I'm reading labels in the grocery store, I find "natural flavors" listed on a majority of foods in the store, everything from yogurt to oatmeal to diet soda to spaghetti sauce. Obviously, not all of those products use peanuts as flavorings, but unless you contact the manufacturer, can you really be sure? And to avoid such foods would eliminate an incredibly wide array of foods (especially as he gets older). I look for brands of such products without that listing, but that's not always possible (like yogurt).
I was wondering how others cope with this issue of natural flavorings?
On Aug 17, 1999
KarenK, My 2 yr old son is PA, as I am. Some may not agree with me, but I don't worry about it. I don't call manufacturers, either. In 37 years, I only had one reaction to a food that didn't have peanuts listed as an ingredient (or may be an ingredient). All other reactions were from restaurants and friends' foods. I have my own rule that works for me, I don't eat things that I think are "weird", or have too many unidentifiable things (i.e. granola). The nice thing about the boards is that you'll get different opinions, and you can see what you're most comfortable with.
On Aug 17, 1999
Cathyt, I am another mom who just found out my son is PA, and am trying to feel my way through what is acceptable risk. I am interested what is your reaction and your son's reaction to the peanut allergy. I'm wondering if the severity level of your allergy affected your decision to take on a risk others have chosen not to, or is it based on some statistics that you have regarding cross-contamination and vague ingredient labelling exposures. I'm not questioning your judgement at all, I hope you understand. I'm just trying to make these kind of decisions myself.
On Aug 17, 1999
Marietta, I hesitated to put my other post here, because I did not want to seem insensititve to those who are more thorough than I with regard to calling manufacturers, etc. My decision was really based on a lifetime of what worked for me. I am 37 yrs old, and years ago labelling was not as good as it is now, and like I said, I only had 1 reaction that I can trace to mislabelling. Therefore, I find that amount of risk acceptable for me. I do use myself as the guinea pig for my son, however, whenever I buy anything new. I am cautious when I eat out, but I do eat out a lot, probably because before I had kids I did a tremendous amount of travel for work. (I also HATE to cook!) With regards to my son, I let him eat what I eat. Like I said, I would never buy granola, funky cereals, cookies with too many ingredients. If a lot of this sounds very arbitrary, it is, because over time I have found what I am comfortable with. This is very confusing to my husband, because he'll come home with something perfectly fine (ingredient wise), and I'll say, no, it's icky, we can't take a chance. Statistic wise, it's just a gut feeling over the years of seeing what's mislabelled. For example, I read recently of fudge butter cookies being mislabelled. That's an example of what I wouldn't buy, because to me it's too close in texture and looks to peanut butter. I'm sorry I can't be of more help in narrowing things down!
On Aug 17, 1999
Marietta, Oops, I forgot to answer your first question. My severity level is off the charts, way past Class Six, and my son's (so far), is a high Class Four.
On Aug 18, 1999
Marietta, You said you're a mother new to this issue. How do you deal with "natural flavorings" on labels?
On Aug 18, 1999
KarenK, At this point, I'm being super cautious. If there are natural flavorings listed as an ingredient, I call the manufacturer and ask if there any peanut products in the natural flavorings. I'm also calling manufacturers about non-peanut ingredient foods to check if there is chance of cross-contamination with food that does contain peanuts. Unfortunately, I haven't found data to help me to determine what is an acceptable risk for me. I don't know how many cases there are of people reacting to peanut products not explicitedly stated in natural ingredients or how many cases of cross-contamination. I may be going way overboard but I'm still very scared by this allergy.
On Aug 19, 1999
Another issue with natural or artifical ingredients is that, even if you call the manufacturer, there is NO guarantee that the next time you buy the product, everything will be the same. The ingredients may have changed slightly or the product may now be labeled "may contain..." or "produced in a facility that uses peanuts." These risks may or may not be acceptable to you.
I recently noticed that Freihofer's baked products have common food allergens in bold letters on the ingredient list. I find that extremly helpful, because I don't have to get out my magnifying glass to read the labels, and I don't have to read through lines and lines of ingredients; it's very easy to see that something contains milk, egg, or nuts. Yeah for them.
On Aug 26, 1999
Hi, Thought i'd give my experance on the natural flavorings. I was very concerned in the begining of this process of learning how to avoid peanuts in my sons allergy. I contacted lots of people about this. One was a nutrisionist for a local Grocery store. She could not answer my questions. The most assuring thing I learned was from food manufactures. I called a handful of the food Co. I purchase form most. All of them assured me that if they used a known allergn they would declare it. They would not hide something that could really cause someone alot of trouble. Now I know this is not alot of help but it did assure me that if I use common sence and avoid peanuts, I will be safe. So far so good no reactions at home or anywhere for 3 years. Praise the Lord. It is getting easier as my son get older he has started monitoring food himself and if there is a question he just doesn't eat it. God Bless, Hope this helps, Lori
On Aug 27, 1999
I'm another mom that doesn't call all the manufacturers everytime I see the words "natural flavors"... However, if I see the "may contain..." or "produced in a facility..." statements, I will call (unless I can find/make a comparable product that doesn't have those statements).
As for the natural flavors...I've found that if I avoid products that I know often have problems (you know...granola, cookies, chocolate, etc.) we're OK. I guess we've been lucky, but if you think about it, you can probably figure out which ones are more likely to be peanut and which are not. Really, would vanilla yogurt have peanut flavorings?(vanilla is not usually listed as an ingredient so those natural flavors are probably vanilla), or would coke have peanut in it? (if it does...we've never had a problem).
Sometimes I question my logic and whether or not I should do more, especially after visiting this board, but I've had no problems yet. [img]http://client.ibboards.com/peanutallergy/biggrin.gif[/img]
On Aug 27, 1999
You used vanilla yogourt as an example. This brought to mind the french vanilla yogourt I did not buy a few years ago because I learned it was made on the same line as a yogourt containing almonds, as well as a yogourt which contained "peanut butter and jelly."
After some parents complained, the company stopped producing the PB&J yogourt, but this goes to show, you never can tell where cross-contamination will appear.
On Aug 27, 1999
We are working hard to have products labeled better. We will have more on this very soon, be sure you are on the mail list, and watch the boards for what is going on etc. If you have not sent in your email address etc. be sure to fill out the form. I will put a link to the form in this post. We need as many people as we can to help push for better labeling so be sure we know you are out there! We know many of you have not told us you are out there but are reading these boards and using the PeanutAllergy.Com site. We often ask people when they call if they have filled out a form or contacted us before, and we find they have been on the site for a while but never contacted us. They did not realize how important it was, or that they can make a difference. There is a lot we can do together, and the more people we have the more we can push for a better quality of life. Click here to go to the form: [url="http://www.nutallergy.com/maillist.htm"]www.nutallergy.com/maillist.htm[/url]
We know it is a lot of work to call manufacturers and that many manufacturers have told people that they would label if there were an allergen etc. We wish they were always correct in their statement. We have talked to manufacturers who have stated that they would label if there were an allergen, however often after working with them to make sure they are addressing peanut allergy, we find out that the company had not been checking or labeling well etc.. Many times we have had the consumer relation department tell us that they would be labeling if it was in the product (almost like an automated response), but when questioned about their manufacturing facility they realize they are not doing what they had said.
We know that some people who have a peanut allergy, or are caring for a child who does, do not do all the work necessary like calling manufacturers, finding out what the "natural flavor or natural ingredients" are etc. Unfortunately we hear from people and manufacturers that have had problems because a product was not labeled well enough.
------------------ Stay Safe
[This message has been edited by Chris PeanutAllergy Com (edited August 28, 1999).]
On Oct 26, 1999
I recently called a food manufacturer (Hain) to find out if a the natural flavor ingredient in one of their products contained pnt/nut. The consumer rep stated to me that by FDA law if a natural flavor has an allergen in it it has to be stated, that it can not be hidden. I asked her is she was sure and if this was a new law. She said she was sure and thought it might be a new law as of this year.
Has any one else heard this or have a phone number for the appropriate FDA department where I can verify this information?
On Oct 27, 1999
I was able to confirm this information at the FDA web site: [url="http://www.fda.gov."]www.fda.gov.[/url]
For those of you like me who are in Canada, the law here is the same as in the U.S.: allergens even in natural flavourings must be labelled. Check this site for Canadian confirmation: [url="http://www.cfia-agr.ca"]www.cfia-agr.ca[/url]
On Aug 21, 2000
This "natural flavorings" issue was still a concern for me so I wrote (e-mail) the following to the FDA. (Following my E-mail to the FDA is their response to me.)
> Sent: Saturday, August 19, 2000 4:30 PM > To: [email]FSIS.WebMaster@dchqexs1.hqnet.usda.gov[/email] > Subject: Peanuts can kill
> I would like to know why I can find the number of fat grams on a food product, but I cannot find out if Peanut products are part of the "natural flavorings" in a product.
Peanut products, even a trace amount can kill our daughter. Why isn't it mandated that a product that can and does kill be listed on the food manufactures label? > > Sue
============ Their response ============
Subj: RE: Peanuts can kill Date: 8/21/00 6:12:44 AM US Mountain Standard Time From: [email]FSIS.WebMaster@dchqexs1.hqnet.usda.gov[/email] (FSIS Webmaster)
Dear Ms. #####: I have some good news for you. Peanuts cannot be included in "natural flavorings," and when any form of peanuts is added to a products, it MUST be listed on the ingredient statement. Many people are allergic to peanut products, so this is the law. Hope this helps you. Thanks for writing to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service. Sincerely, FSIS Webmaster