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Stopping by CJ’s Unique Boutique in Colorado Springs, we were able to see how they use our label printer to create their personal care lotion and oil labels. See for yourself:
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How to Read Food Labels to Find Allergens- and How to List Allergen Warnings on Your Ingredients LabelsFebruary 11, 2011
With more people becoming aware of food allergies, here are some important facts to help you read food labels to find allergen ingredients, and to help you make your own food labels that comply with allergen labeling laws.
The need for food allergy labeling
Food allergies affect roughly 12 million (1 in every 25) Americans, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network , 3 million of which are children. Approximately 30,000 Americans go to the Emergency Room each year with severe allergic reactions to food, and it is estimated that anywhere between 100 to 200 people die each year from allergic reactions to food.
One of those 12 million Americans is Kellie Pabst, a 24 year old suffering from Celiac Disease. Pabst has had this disease since she was 22. Having Celiac Disease means that she is allergic to gluten and cannot eat any products that contain wheat, barley, or rye. Common products that Pabst is unable to eat include: bread(s), pasta, crackers, BBQ sauce, pretzels, pizza, and most desserts.
How do you get food allergies?
You can develop a food allergy at any time, some people are born with them and others develop them throughout their lives. Food allergies occur when your body’s immune system accidentally attacks a food protein. Symptoms of allergies include: hives, rashes, itching, swelling of the face, tongue, throat or lips, difficulty breathing, wheezing, dizziness, and even loss of consciousness. Pabst became aware of her gluten allergy after suffering from similar symptoms. “I was suffering from stomach pains, bloating, fever, dizziness and lightheadedness as well as being nauseous all the time. Those symptoms eventually led me to discover this allergy,” said says.
The history behind allergy lists on food labels
Starting in 1938, the US Food and Drug Administration required that foods which are made from two or more ingredients must bear a label that declares each ingredient by its “common” name so that consumers could avoid ingesting allergens. The only exception to this rule is spices, flavorings, and colors which could be declared by a class- simply called “spices” on the ingredients panel.
Because there are some cases where an allergen’s common name may be unfamiliar to a consumer, new legislation, called the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) was passed and revised in 2006. This law requires food manufacturers to clearly identify, in plain English, if any of its product ingredients are derived from any of eight major food allergen groups. FALCPA applies to all packaged foods sold in the United States, including imported foods. If imported foods are lacking allergen statements, these foods must be re-labeled to comply with FDA allergen labeling standards.
Which food allergens are required to be labeled?
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2006 made it mandatory that packaged foods be clearly labeled if they contain any of the eight major allergen groups. The following class of 8 FDA-recognized allergens are ingredients in almost 200 different foods that can cause severe allergic reactions:
- Peanuts – which includes peanut flour, hydrolyzed protein, but not peanut oil
- Tree nuts – for example: walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews
- Milk – any protein from cow’s milk, for example: milk, cream, dry milk, whey
- Eggs -whites, yolks, albumen, and powdered eggs
- Soy – includes soy beans, soy protein, soy flour, but not soybean oil
- Seafood – fish such as bass, flounder, and cod
- Crustaceans – shellfish such as crab, lobster, and shrimp. Also includes Mollusks such as clams, mussels and scallops as well as Cephalopods such as squid.
These foods account for 90% of food allergic reactions, according to the USDA.
Pabst relies on these ingredients, specifically wheat, while she reads nutrition label facts “I read product labels all the time, everywhere I go or on anything that I am looking to eat. There are foods out there that contain wheat that you would never even think of.”
What foods aren’t labeled with allergen warnings?
As of now, fresh foods such as produce, meat, highly refined oils, poultry, and eggs are not required to be labeled for potential food allergens.
FALCPA only applies to foods under FDA regulation. Products such as fresh meat, poultry,
and eggs are regulated by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection (FSIS) rather than the FDA, and are therefore they are excluded. The FSIS requires all ingredients used in the formulation of meat, poultry, or egg products to be clearly stated in the ingredients statement on the label. The FSIS is currently working to adopt the FALCPA labeling requirements for the products it regulates.
There is a possibility that these foods may mistakenly come in contact with food allergens, but the USDA FSIS does not require processors to use allergen warning labels. Some manufacturers, although not required, do label their products with a statement regarding the “possibility” of cross-contamination during manufacturing. For example, if a product is manufactured in a factory that also manufactures peanuts, a label may say “manufactured in a factory that processes peanuts” just to err on the side of caution.
When we asked Pabst how confident she is in the labels she reads she says with assurance, “Yes I do feel confident – a lot more companies are catering to my allergy and making foods that are gluten free. It’s nice to pick up a box of pancake mix and see ‘Gluten Free’ on the ingredients label.” Luckily though, she has never had an incident where a product has been mislabeled but has had run-ins with cross contamination.
Is there a cure for food allergies?
No, there is no cure for food allergies. With no cure or preventive medicine, proper labeling and knowledge of how to read a food label with allergen disclosures are necessities. The only real options to treat food allergies are avoidance and recognizing a reaction and taking the proper measures to contain the reaction.
Avoidance is really the only antidote according to Pabst. “I am now on a Gluten Free diet,” she explains. “I also try my best to stay away from anything that may be cross-contaminated.” Unfortunately, most cases of allergic reactions to food result from eating food that was believed to be safe according to food and allergy statistic on the the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network’s website.
Although making these adjustments and constant avoidance weren’t easy to adapt to after 22 years of being able to eat whatever she wanted, Pabst has a positive attitude. “An allergy is always tough at first, but as time goes on you figure out how to change your eating habits to benefit you and your health,” she said.
How do I properly label food allergens?
The first way is the “Contains” method. The “Contains” label statement must be located after or adjacent to the ingredients list and must contain common terms, for example: “Contains Wheat, Egg, and Soy.” The statement cannot be a smaller type size then the type size used in the ingredients list, and the word “Contains” must always have a capital letter “C.”
The second way to label allergens is to reference allergens in parenthesis within the ingredients list, after the common name of the ingredient. For example, flour and whey would be listed this way: “flour (wheat) or whey (milk).”
What if a food product isn’t labeled properly for allergens?
If a food product isn’t labeled with all the proper food allergens and makes its way to store shelves, the food may be subject to recall according to the FALCPA requirements.
Food Allergy Application for Mobile Phones?
A Norwich-based company, Food Angel, has invented a mobile phone application called “IsItInIt” which scans bar codes on products and deciphers whether or not that contain food allergens. Talk about awesome right? This invention saves you having to read each ingredient labels for those sometimes hard-to-find allergens.
Before using the application you have to register your allergic conditions on a website so you can specify which ingredients you would like to be alerted to. The details you provide will be tailored to your phone application so that, when you scan a food label bar code, your phone will almost instantly be notified with a red “warning signal.”
More recently, stories have been written about a new innovation to help avoid allergens for those with Celiac Disease: gluten-detecting dogs, are trained to “sniff out” gluten ingredients in food products. Although reading labels is your safest bet, you never know if a product has been cross-contaminated through the manufacturing or packaging process. For those who have severe gluten allergies, this is a great alternative to avoid products that have been cross contaminated.
How you can get allergy warning labels for your food products
QuickLabel Systems offers many options to fulfill allergen labeling needs. By printing your food labels with a QuickLabel printer, you have the ability to print allergen warning statements whenever you need them and to modify ingredient lists on the spot. Of course, we’ll be happy to print your labels for you, and we can help you to modify your food labels to include allergen disclosures.
More Resources About Food Allergies and Printing Food Labels: