There has recently been an uproar about how food companies are allowing processed foods that may be contaminated with allergens to go unlabeled. The situation was brought to light in Australia, however concerns for the issue have risen within this country as well.
Many unlabeled foods go without warning due to their lack of assessment; companies assume certain products won’t have certain ingredients, and so they skip allergen testing and hope for the best. This problem has brought along a demand for a new food labeling system, requesting mandatory labels for products actually containing common allergens, in addition to warning labels for any product that risks containing allergens. This system would apply to currently untested products being warning labeled as well, and as much as you would think I would be on board with this solution, I am not excited about it at all.
In fact, I think this is a stupid idea.
Don’t get me wrong; I think it is extremely important to know exactly what you’re putting in your body, especially if you have food allergies. Food labels are great for this. I like the convenience of being able to glance at a product and determine within five seconds whether or not it is going to try to kill me. That’s not the problem.
The problem is the fact that by “solidifying” a labeling system, the food industry is essentially just going to cover up and ignore allergies even more. We already have an allergen label system in place. If food companies are already not properly following it, how is adding to it going to help?
If it becomes a mandatory rule that all food companies place precautionary labels on untested food that say “may contain allergens…”, it isn’t going to push them to test their products. They are just going to slap on the label so that they can say they followed the rules required of them and so that they can prevent legal action in the event that someone does react to their product.
This would solve nothing. There would still be the question as to whether or not a food is safe to eat, and there would still be the same risk in eating them. Nothing would change except for the extra two cents it would cost each company to add a few words to the side of their product packaging. It would result in people with food allergies not eating another processed food for the rest of our lives out of the sheer paranoia that what we’re eating could kill us (even though it still wouldn’t be for certain since food testing wasn’t made mandatory, only lazy labeling).
If the food industry wants to make a smart and safe move, I think they should be more worried about requiring all companies to actually test their food and equipment for allergens. This way there are no guesses – everyone knows for certain whether or not a product is deadly.
This should be the main concern.
But until then, us food freaks will only be able to rely on companies who truly avoid allergens and label their products the right way. Some of my favorite companies for allergen-free processed foods are:
–MadeGood: This brand has some of the best granola snacks ever. They are free of the 8 most common allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, egg, soy, milk, wheat, dairy, sesame, fish), so literally anyone can have their products…unless you’re allergic to deliciousness.
–Skeeter Snacks: Perfect for the person who loves cookies but is allergic to nuts. The cute squirrel mascot is an added bonus.
-So Delicious: This brand makes alternatives to cow’s milk, from coconut milk to soy milk, that are…wait for it…so delicious.
-Udi’s: Gluten-free and good enough to want seconds, Udi’s products will keep you wanting more. Just beware: carbs galore. I know Oprah is a great role model and she loves bread, but we’re not Oprah and even she has a limit.
They teach us never to judge a book by its cover; apparently we can’t judge a food by its label either. Hopefully this will change for the better, and soon too, because there’s only so many epi-pens to go around.