Monday, August 10, 2015

(Not) Practically Perfect in Every Way

Any label making mistake could result in a life threatening reaction and I made not one, but two, last month alone. James is fine. My high rate of failure is unusual for me, but speaks to the heart of difficult for a lot of food allergic people.

I'm a human

Humans make mistakes. In a situation where a mistake can be life threatening, being imperfect leads to guilt. But, I'm still human.

Labeling sucks

1. According to FALCPA (Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act), any food that contains the top eight allergens (tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, milk, and eggs) must be clearly labeled as such, even in flavors, colors, spices. 

One of the labels I misread contained soy, completely my fault, and here's how: James can eat soy lecithin and soybean oil. You will find this in nearly every packaged food you buy. Because we were traveling, we bought him cookies we would not normally buy. I saw "contains soy" at the bottom, I scanned the label and saw the lecithin, and completely missed "soy flour" in the list. This was my fault completely for being complacent.

2. However, did you know that labels are not required to list if they item may have come into contact (ie "may contain") a top eight allergen? I became aware of this only a year after James had been diagnosed when he started having reactions to foods that were not labeled with cross contact warnings. At that point, I started contacting manufacturers to find out their labeling and cross contact policies.

3. Meat, poultry and eggs are covered by the USDA not FALCPA (not something I've had an issue with). There are no requirements covering alcohol (again, not something I've had a problem with). We have known a couple of people who had to avoid wheat in alcohol and it can be trickier than you might first think.

4. If you have an allergy outside of the top eight, you are on your own. This is a pdf of the labeling laws. If an ingredient is considered a spice or a flavor, it does not have to be listed. If it is present in incidental amount, it does not have to be listed. However, the FDA does not define what incidental amounts means.

You can follow (and support) efforts to get sesame listed on labels as another allergen here on Oh Ma Deehness! 


Here we come to the final mistake I made. James has not had a major reaction for just over a year. He has barely had any minor reactions. And so, I have apparently relaxed my guard. Someone posted on Facebook that a vanilla ice cream was made separate from his allergens and, without doing my own research, I bought it. James complained he felt stuffy after eating it and he always felt stuffy after eating it. All I had to do was turn over the container to see that it had a may contain warning with all his allergens.

Teens and young adults are at the highest risk of fatal food induced anaphylaxis. I think part of this come from complacency. Teens and young adults are often diagnosed after a reaction in early childhood. Without a recent reaction, they may be less vigilant than someone recovering from a more recent reaction. I am grateful that I have been reminded about not being complacent with only a minor reaction.


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  2. Are teens and young adults at greater risk for ANA because of complacency OR is there a hormonal factor that creates greater risk? My son is 13 years old. I have always said it is a fine line between safe and paranoia and unfortunately he has chosen latter... while I am glad he is careful and errs on the safe side I know he is very concerned and can worry.

    1. I think there is a combination of factors, Karen. Thank you for bringing that up. As with everything in allergies, nothing is ever clear. I don't think there's any doubt that hormones play a major role.

  3. (((HUGS))) I, too, have made mistakes. It is very hard to be "on guard" all.the.time. Thank you for sharing your story so that others can learn from it and don't be too hard on yourself, though I know it's easier said than done.

    1. Thank you, Selena. It is easier said than done, but focusing on moving forward.