This is a skill that was the hardest to learn. I didn’t have resources or even knew where to go. Yet, knowing terms of food labels for food allergy is crucial for survival. Some years label of food street learning, discovering FARE (food allergy research and education), and connecting with others- we almost have a handle on it.
FDA has set some regulations for allergies and food packaging labels. Under ingredients, if a food item contains one of the eight major allergens, it’s to be listed in bold separately from other ingredients. It only sort of works. Food allergens have multiple names, can be hidden in additives, and end up on food due to cross contamination.
Terms of Food Labels
Food Allergen Alias
Wheat allergen can hide under names like: rye, spelt, durum/duram, semolina, farina, matzoh, farro, coucous, tabbouleh, wheat grass, and malt. You eat any of these, your immune system is exposed to wheat. Dairy is found under casein, caseinate, lactose-free, hydrolysates, whey, galactose, curds. Lactose free is not dairy free, it’s without the common sugar in dairy. Egg shows up as yolk, white, albumin, egg substitute, meringue, lecithin (not soy based), and ovalbumin. Shellfish and other food allergens has a detailed list at FARE.
Beware of fads and claims
Other than a long list of food allergen aliases, be weary of incredible health claims. Amazing promises, cures, or anything of the sort is a warning sign. Read weary and read the label extra carefully. Often, I just set it down. Companies can opt for the gluten free “GF.” Still read the ingredient label. Even with bold print, read the labels. Only the eight common words: wheat, eggs, peanuts, dairy etc have to be in bold. Every food allergen alias is fair game to hide in the ingredient list. Back to the health claims, vegetarian meats and substitutes are not necessarily better. Most likely they’re just as processed a ‘junk’ food and contain major allergens. Wheat and corn are a common filler in vegetarian ‘meats.’
I cannot stress enough how important it is to read labels. Packaging may be designed for easy reference or it could be a food allergen trap. Read labels for cosmetic and cleaning supplies as well. Food allergens can be hidden in these and companies are not required to list food allergen in bold or at all. Log trusted brands too. Keep a list in your phone for easy reference for you and for sharing with others. While knowing how to read labels can help prevent a lot of reactions, it’s not everything. Listen to your body always.
Be safe in your food relationship and share this with others. You never know who you help. Be strong and live teal.