A recent study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology concluded that “Increased food allergy knowledge among the general public is needed.” This is no surprise to those of us who have food allergies or food allergic family members. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the more common myths and misconceptions and set the record straight.
Myth: My child only has a certain kind of reaction (hives, stomach ache) so that is how he/she will always react.
Truth: Reactions Vary. One reaction can be "only" hives; the next can be full-blown anaphylaxis. Even if your child typically reacts in a certain way, be aware of all potential symptoms of anaphylaxis. I know this one first hand. My son reacted with hives each time he encountered an allergen, except for his very worst reaction, when he had almost every symptom of anaphylaxis except hives.
Myth: If a label does not have a "may contains" or "processed in a facility" warning, it means the product is “safe”
Truth: False. Those precautionary (i.e. "may contains") warnings are voluntary. Just because a company chooses not to tell you about potential cross contamination does not mean that the product is safe. If there is concern, call the company to ask about manufacturing practices, or purchase only allergy friendly products, like Enjoy Life, Lucy’s or CherryBrook Kitchen.
Myth: In the United States, food labels must list every ingredient.
Truth: Sadly, this is not true. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires that the labels of foods regulated by the FDA identify ingredients containing the eight major food allergens (milk, wheat, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shell fish and soy.) This type of labeling is not required on foods regulated by the USDA (meat, poultry), alcoholic beverages, over-the-counter or prescription drugs, cosmetics or health and beauty aids (toothpaste, mouthwash etc.) In addition, FALCPA does not cover fresh produce (fruits and vegetables) or highly refined oils even if derived from one of the major allergens. (For example, refined peanut oil does not need to be identified as “peanut”) And those of us dealing with less common allergies, such as sesame, garlic or mustard, need to remember that these foods can hide behind words such as “natural flavors” or “spices”
Myth: My child is a teenager now so we can let our guard down. He knows better than to eat something he is allergic to.
Truth: Teenagers and young adults are actually the most vulnerable to severe or even fatal reactions. Teens can be impulsive and more than anything they want to fit in. These behaviors may make them reluctant to ask questions about ingredients or to call attention to themselves in any way if they feel they are reacting to something. Teens and tweens need as much or more education on how to advocate for themselves to stay safe.