Allergen-Free Labeling & Manufacturing: Are You Asking the Right Questions?
by Tammie Sarra (see bio below)
I have a shrimp allergy and have had a few scary moments when I have been ‘shrimped’ without realizing it. One night at my local pub I decided to order some crab cakes. I have had crab many times and no reaction. So I am eating my crab cakes and I start to feel really unwell. I decide to go home and half way there I started having trouble breathing. The only time this happens is if I have ingested shrimp. I called my girlfriend who was still at the pub and ask her to ask the server what the ingredient list was on the crab cakes. She asked if I was ok and I say no, I think there was something other than crab in those crab cakes. Trying not to panic I drove home, got my epi-pen and stabbed myself in the thigh. My breathing got better but I was completely freaked out. My girlfriend showed up and told me besides crab the manufacturer of the crab cakes listed ‘mixed seafood’! I was so angry! This was my life they were messing with! I called the manufacturer and told them my concerns, their response “if you are allergic to seafood why are you eating crab cakes?”. I explained that I was not allergic to all seafood just shrimp. Well they kept blaming me and It left me feeling so helpless.
Safety in food manufacturing is I feel one of the most important aspects of the food industry. Consumers deserve to know where each raw ingredient comes from and transparency with manufacturers and raw ingredient suppliers shouldn’t be a suggestion, a policy or a something that is none of our business.
When it comes to food allergies it is even more important. Just because a manufacturer says they have a gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free whatever-free facility; doesn’t mean the raw ingredients have been checked for these allergens. Anyone claiming allergen-free should also be testing random batches of their finished product to make sure these allergens indeed are not in their product.
Anyone who has food allergies; especially if they are severe and have anaphylactic reactions; should be mindful and ask questions.
Manufactures should have an Allergen Control program that covers farm to finished product. This means if a company claims they are gluten-free, they should be testing for gluten in their finished product. They should also be researching where their raw ingredients come from. For example if a manufacturer is using bean flours, does the farmers where they get the beans from ONLY grow beans? What if these farmers grew beans, wheat and soy? Most farmers don’t have a separate set of machinery for each crop; no they harvest their wheat, soy and beans with the same machinery.
What about the mill that mills the flour? Are they a dedicated wheat free facility? If not then there is cross-contamination and this goes for all allergens. What about the facility that processes the raw ingredients or stores them? These are just a few of the places where cross-contamination can occur.
The facility can be free of certain allergens but unless the manufacturer is looking everywhere along the supply chain and testing the end product then how can a consumer be 100% confident that there has been no cross-contamination?
So why isn’t every manufacturer claiming free of allergens doing this? For the most part it is the cost involved. Testing is expensive and time consuming, but when lives are at stake is it not worth it?
As consumers we need to get more informed and not just reach for the least expensive products. Call the manufacturer and ask questions, don’t expect that just because something makes sense then it is being done. We need to do our due diligence and it is our responsibility to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. Especially when every day we are ingesting food, do you really want to risk it?
Bio: Through Tammie Sarra’s challenges with her own health, her children’s health and working with families affected with Autism, she has seen over and over again how nutrition is key to helping overcome many health problems. Having studied nutrition in Canada and England, working in the nutrition industry for over 17 years and teaching nutrition, she is aware that consuming an allergen-free, gluten-free diet significantly reduces inflammation. As a working single mother, Tammie often found it frustrating and exhausting having to bake everything from scratch in order to adhere to the anti-inflammatory diet that healed her. Tammie created a company that utilizes her 20+ years of experience in the nutrition, health and wellness industry as well as the experience she gained managing her personal health concerns. This is how Allergic Solution, Premium Allegen Free Food Products, was born.