With food allergies, sensitivities, gluten intolerance, and concerns about unhealthy additives on the rise, grocery shopping can feel like a mine field of hazards. Federal law mandates that labels on prepared foods declare ingredients, with a call-out to the most common (and often life-threatening) allergens: eggs, milk, fish, crustacean shellfish, peanuts, wheat, soybeans, and tree nuts.
This 2004 law is a definitely step in the right direction. Yet danger lurks in many prepared foods. Unfortunately, the Big 8 account for 90% of the food allergies, there are many more that wreak havoc for the remaining 10%. And that doesn’t even mean those labeled foods are totally safe for people with issues. Not all types of foods are required to carry the warning stickers; trace amounts or the threat of cross-contamination are not always clearly indicated; and all ingredients are not always disclosed (garlic, cinnamon, or sesame could all be clumped under “spices” or “natural flavoring,” which does not help people allergic to these foods). Since gluten is not considered an allergy, the FDA guidelines on labeling are just that–voluntary guidelines, not mandatory disclosures.
Becoming a grocery super sleuth is the only defense. For more information and practical tips on informed, careful shopping, check out: https://www.foodallergy.org/life-with-food-allergies/living-well-everyday/how-to-read-food-labels or https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/in-depth/food-allergies/art-20045949.