Heads UP! Strange Places I’ve Found Allergens

Have you ever picked up a product, read the label, and been shocked to find it contained [insert your allergen here]? Me too!  I wanted to share the “head’s up” and would love if you would too.

Hmmmm. Let’s see.

Fluoride treatments at the dentist office “may contain” peanuts.

I’ve found cake flour that “may contain” peanuts.

I’ve found milk in chicken bouillon cubes and taco seasoning packets.

I’ve found canned vegetables that “may contain” peanuts.

How about in the same product that WAS ok, but isn’t ok in a different package size.  Or how about the same product that WAS ok at one store, but isn’t ok from a different store because the “recipe” is different for a different customer base.  Yep, seen that.

I’ve seen hamster food that contains peanuts.

I’ve heard of potting soil that contains peanuts.

I found Tastefully Simple brand spices and seasonings may contain milk, egg, and/or nuts.  You would think it would just be a spice!

Chili can contain peanuts.

Here’s a great list too: http://foodallergysupport.olicentral.com/index.php/topic,43.0.html

When Labels Lie

Here’s a perfect example of why you have to do more than read the label.  (Every time!)

I found a bag of a popular seasoned tortilla chips in a flavor that read ok for us.  In other words, the ingredients list on the back did not contain any milk, egg, or peanuts.   Warning- when it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.  Because I know they make nacho cheese variations of these chips, I was suspicious and went to the company website to double check.  NOT on the nutrition page, NOT on the product info page, but in the FAQ section, I found a link answering questions about allergens which then contained a link to “Products Not Containing Milk Ingredients”.  Above this list it states,  “The … products included here do not contain milk.”   Below the list (which included the product I was researching), it states, “The above products do not contain milk; however, they are produced on the same line as our products that do contain milk. Although the lines are washed between batches, a slight residue may remain on the line. Individuals who are extremely sensitive may be affected.”

Grrrrr.  Be very, very careful!

According to the FDA, in the U.S., if a product contains any of the 8 major allergens (milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and soy), the company is required to include this on the ingredients label.  It doesn’t have to be in the “Contains” section, it could be stated in the “Ingredients” section, or sometimes it’s in both places. HOWEVER, if the allergens aren’t in the recipe, but may be present from cross-contamination during processing, i.e. processed in a facility or on the same lines, it is NOT required to be on the label.  In other words, they do have to put it on the label if it “Contains” it, but NOT if it only “May Contain” it.  Clear as mud?  Exactly.  Some manufacturers (God bless them!) have a policy of always using a “May Contain” statement on the label if cross-contamination is possible, but unfortunately, they are not the majority.   Always, always, (always), check!

For further reading on Food Allergen Labeling, visit http://www.fda.gov/food/resourcesforyou/consumers/ucm079311.htm