Reading packaging labels carefully is crucial for when you need to find allergy-friendly foods. Newly diagnosed families and less experienced parents may think terms like ‘allergy-free’ on a food label is okay.
While all eight major allergens that are ingredients must be declared on packaged foods marketed and sold in the United States. It’s a good idea to practice the following tips.
Find Allergy-Friendly Foods
1. Don’t assume certain foods are automatically safe. Labeling laws don’t require ingredients to be listed if their presence does not have a function in the finished product. This can include spices, flavors and colors.
2. Read all labels and understand the different statements. Food manufacturers use different wording to warn customers about how they make certain items. For example, they use words like “may contain” or “processed in a facility with.” Understand what that means and if it poses a health risk for you or your loved one with food allergies.
3. Precautionary warnings are purely voluntary. Some manufacturers include a “may contain” and “produced in a facility” warning statements on their labels when there is a chance that an allergen could be present from cross-contamination.
4. Know where and how your food is made. If you have a nut allergy, find foods made in a “dedicated nut-free facility” – or whatever your allergen is. This gives you extra assurance that you are consuming safe, allergy-friendly food.
5. Contact the company if you’re unsure about how the food is processed. If you’re concerned about potential cross-contamination or just curious about how the company makes the food, call or email them. People like you and I reach out to these companies all the time. And those that understand our needs and are really allergy-friendly will be able to answer your questions.
6. Read the food labels – every time you shop. Even if you’ve bought and ate the same food in the past without any concerns, don’t assume the next time will be safe. Always check the ingredients to make sure the recipe does not include new ingredients that are harmful for you.
7. Skip food with missing or partial labels. Never eat a food item that does not have a label. It’s simply too risky to chance it.
8. Share your allergens when dining out. It’s just about impossible to read food labels when you’re dining out. Always inform the wait staff about your food allergies so they can ensure your meal is prepared safely.
I’d love to hear some tips on how to teach kids about reading food labels and how your family handles ‘may contain’ or ‘produced in a facility‘ warning statements. Comment below or on my Facebook page.