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Food allergies: Five tips to read food labels like a pro

If you are new to food allergies, you probably have started to read food labels while grocery shopping. It can be scary to navigate, as different manufacturers have different labels and there despite the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, it can still be tough for those new to food allergies to navigate. Under […]

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If you are new to food allergies, you probably have started to read food labels while grocery shopping. It can be scary to navigate, as different manufacturers have different labels and there despite the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, it can still be tough for those new to food allergies to navigate.

Under the act, companies are required to label foods that contain the major food allergens or “Top 8:” Milk, eggs, shellfish, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and fish. However, something to consider when you read food labels is that many foods are produced in the same factory or on the same lines as these allergens, so cross-contamination is a risk. Some companies do label for this; however, the language can vary.

And companies can change ingredients or facilities at any time, meaning you should read food labels every time you purchase a product.

Products can also be recalled for allergen issues, which is another thing to keep track of.

Here are five tips on how you can read labels like a pro. Read on:

Know your allergens

Milk isn’t always milk; it can have many different names. The Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) lists common names for allergens on its website. Familiarize yourself with alternate names for your allergen.

Understand the meanings

Even though the act was a good step, food companies don’t have to give you a precautionary warning, otherwise known as a “may contain” statement. In this case, you may have to call or email a company to find out if cross-contamination is possible – or at least familiarize yourself with companies that have excellent labeling and spend your food dollars there

Take your time

When you are dealing with a food allergy, grocery store trips can take a little bit of extra time. It’s worth it to read each label and double check that the products are OK for you. A rushed trip could mean labels don’t get read.

Non-top 8 allergies

If you have a food allergy that isn’t one of the Top 8 allergens, label reading – and calling or emailing companies – is even more critical. Some allergies, like sesame, are common but aren’t labeled well. Learn the foods where your allergen is likely to be present. For sesame, this would be Asian food or salad dressings or seasoning blends, for example.

When in doubt, go without

The best policy when reading labels is, if you can’t confirm it, don’t buy it. This may seem extreme, but some people with food allergies can react to small amounts of their allergen in foods. If you have doubts about the labeling or if the company can’t provide you with information, pick another product.

Midwest Allergy

The medical experts at Midwest Allergy can help you navigate the world of food allergies. Make an appointment today!

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