The number of people living with food allergies is growing every day. It’s important that we all take care of not only our own health but also the well-being of those who can’t eat certain foods because they suffer from severe reactions. A recent study shows there have been over 18 million additional US citizens diagnosed with food allergies since 2014 which means more than half the country may be dealing with this issue right now.
Food allergies can be a real challenge. You might avoid one or more kinds of foods, but even if they’re not in your diet there’s always the chance that someone else cooking for you has used something with which you’re allergic and it could cause a reaction–especially considering how much refined food products contain ingredients we may never expect.
This difficulty is compounded by the ambiguous ingredient listings which are often included in foods, with names such as “natural and artificial flavorings”. As a way of helping consumers to deal with the sometimes unclear ingredient list on food products, Congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, which went into effect on January 1 of 2006.
This law mandates that food manufacturers declare when any one of the eight major allergens (milk, eggs, fish, tree nuts, soy, wheat, peanuts, crustaceans) are present in a food product. As such, if a product that you are examining on the shelf was packaged before January 1, it may not include the full declaration of allergenic substances.
Pay attention to the ingredients and use clean utensils when preparing foods for anyone who has allergies. Also, learning the specific scientific names for allergens such as casein (allergen in milk) can help you identify what to look out for on labels and avoid putting yourself or your allergic loved ones at risk. Living with food allergies is not easy, but by taking some effort now we may be able to provide our family members peace of mind when eating certain dishes.