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Inspecting the labels is a must with allergies

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A Call for Clear Labeling

Earlier this fall, Allergic Living reported that many of their readers contacted them over Starbucks‘ use of what they called a “Nut Syrup” in their seasonal fall beverages. After more careful research, it was determined that this syrup didn’t actually contain any nuts, making these drinks safe for those with nut allergies to consume, barring any other add-ons or other allergies.

We have also been seeing a lot of questions, from social media to being asked directly by our patients, on this same topic. Does nutmeg contain nuts? Does eggnog have eggs? No, and yes, respectively, but the importance of clearly naming and labeling foods can never be understated when it comes to avoiding an allergy trigger or potential anaphylaxis.

Back in 2004, the FDA required all food manufacturers, by law, to list each ingredient by it’s “usual name” on the packaging. They also required that the manufacturers list which, if any, of the eight most common food allergens (wheat, soy, dairy, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts and peanuts) in it’s own list, because sometimes these allergens are not recognized by their “usual names”.

Take dairy, for example. Under the name “casinate”, these milk proteins (responsible for triggering a dairy allergy attack) can show up in things like coffee creamer, pudding, or baked goods. These are fairly typical, and you may be on the lookout for dairy in these locations. But what about in your Canned Tuna or shampoo? These are other not-so-obvious places where dairy can hide. Since shampoo isn’t a food, it’s also not likely to be labeled as clearly.

That is why we urge manufacturers – all manufacturers- to do two things:

The first, take the time to clearly label what types of ingredients that you are using in your products. If you have a syrup called “Nut syrup”, like Starbucks does, we would assume it contains nuts. If it turns out it does not contain nuts, which is true, in Starbuck’s case (they stated in the Allergic Living article that they name all their flavors based on it’s ‘Flavor Profile’), we would like to see a clear, outright statement that declares whether Nut Syrup does or does not contain nuts.

This isn’t too obvious of labeling, either. As made obvious in Starbuck’s case, there are many ways to create the same smell and taste of just about any ingredient, so without a clear label, simply glancing at the product doesn’t guarantee that those allergic to nuts will be safe. The symbols for “vegan” and “animal-cruelty free” are popping up on more and more labels, so why not create an additional label that makes it clear, once and for all, that a product is allergy-free?

That brings us to our second plea for manufacturers: Take a good look at what you’re really putting into your products. Anything you’re putting into and onto your body has a direct impact on your health, and consumers are becoming more savvy to the inclusion of dangerous chemicals like parabens and sulfates in products like skincare. If you are a manufacturer, it’s time to adopt the current consumer mindset of using more natural, simpler products. It may be tough to re-think your product and marketing strategy (because you can’t promise you’ll emerge the shower smelling like summer rain without bathing in your own chemical shower), but given the way current understanding of health and wellness is trending, it’s only a matter of time anyway.

By the way, Starbucks has come on record stating that all of their drinks are peanut and tree nut free, so drink up! You can get most of their drinks made with soy milk for those with dairy allergies, as well as coconut milk if soy is not an option, depending on where you live and its availability at that location.

While you’re enjoying your allergy-free holiday beverages this year, chew on this food for thought. Let us know what you think about pushing further for a universal “allergy” label on all products.