What Food Labels Don't Tell You About Allergens

Most people turn to packaged food without second thought, using canned, bottled, and prepared foods to cut meal preparation time or provide a quick bite to eat. But if you have food allergies, can you really trust that the label reflects what you'll get when you open the package?

 

Labels don't disclose cross contamination

For those with food allergies, checking the ingredient list and watching for allergen warning labels becomes second nature. But what if you eat something that should be perfectly safe, and it causes a reaction? Unfortunately, this happens frequently, according to Care 2, and it's often caused by cross-contamination that the manufacturer is well aware can happen. While some food companies do disclose this possibility on their labels, the FDA does not require food manufacturers to disclose that their product is manufactured on shared equipment or may otherwise come into contact with an allergen. And to many people with food allergies or sensitivities, these trace amounts can be dangerous or even life-threatening.

Top 8 major allergens not required to be listed

There are other problems with food labeling requirements, too, reports Care 2.. Other potential allergens not considered one of the top 8 major allergens by the FDA do not need to be listed. Corn allergies, in particular, are problematic. Most packaged foods contain corn derivatives, but labels aren't required to disclose this fact, and the presence of corn is often hidden in ingredients such as “hydrolyzed vegetable protein,” which may be made out of corn, soy, what, or dozens of other sources. Unless the source for such ingredients is one of the top eight food allergens (milk, eggs, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, or shellfish), food manufacturers don't have to tell you where it came from – and they may not even know.

Ingredient listings are often vague

Unfortunately, food ingredients are often obscured by vague names like “spices” and “natural flavor.” Some of them can be gross, like 'natural coloring' derived from bugs. But some can be downright dangerous for those with food sensitivities. And, like the 'hydrolyzed vegetable protein,' food manufacturers aren't required to tell you how those ingredients are derived.

Until stricter food labeling laws become a reality, food manufacturers simply aren't required to keep consumers with food allergies in mind when designing their packaging. Have you run into problems with packaged food labels that simply aren't clear enough to give you peace of mind?

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