Allergen food labeling

Posted on: June 11, 2015

When it comes to managing my son’s food allergies, I rely on package labeling. I’ve learned to look for those key phrases: “Contains…” or “Processed in a facility that handles…” I also ALWAYS read the full ingredient list to double-check.

I’ve learned that not all companies label the same. Some companies put the offending allergens in bold lettering instead of having a separate allergy statement under the ingredient list. Some companies have a separate allergen statement and also label for cross contamination. Then there are those companies (like Hershey’s) who don’t put any kind of allergen statement unless there is the chance of cross contamination. There are also those companies who label on some of their products but not others. And, finally, there are some companies who label for sesame and most others who don’t. Reading labels can be very overwhelming and confusing when shopping. That’s why I fully advocate for ALWAYS reading the ingredients EVERY TIME. Even if it’s a product you trust. Always check.

Recently, I found out some upsetting news about a product I have come to trust. A product my children love. It turns out though I should have done more research on them and not so easily trusted them.

Last week I found this article about Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers and graham cookies. To say I was surprised and disappointed at what I read is an understatement. I was upset to learn that the goldfish graham cookies are processed on lines that also process other cookies, some of which contain tree nuts. This is upsetting because Pepperidge Farm does NOT label for this on their packaging at all, as you can see below.


After reading the article I began to look at their packages for myself and I noticed they are not at all consistent. As you can see in the picture above, there is no allergen labeling AT ALL but the ingredients clearly list a number of allergens (wheat, milk, soy). But, as you’ll see in the picture below, which is from goldfish crackers, there is an allergen label on this package.

FullSizeRender (4)

I’ve also noticed that their Goldfish Pretzel crackers also do NOT contain an allergy label and they contain allergens.

How is it that one company can label so differently on multiple products? Why label for allergens on some products and not others? It makes no sense to me. This also makes me wonder how many other companies do the same thing? Are there other products I buy that I think are safe but could actually not be? The thought of it scares me. Up until now I have been giving my son the Goldfish Graham cookies. Knowing now that they share a line with products that contain tree nuts is horrifying. One spec of a tree nut in the graham cookie could have caused my son to go into anaphylactic shock and possibly die. That does not sit well with me.

I’ve decided that it’s time for me to do more research on food companies and how they label for allergens. I’m going to be making a lot of phone calls to manufacturers and asking a lot of questions. Yes, it will take time but my son’s life is worth it. I’ve also been thinking about looking into what exactly the government laws and mandates are for allergen food labeling. Clearly, some companies are not labeling as well as they could be and I feel this needs to be changed. It’s time for action. No more sitting back. I recently signed a petition to have Sesame added to the top 8 allergen list as a major allergen so that companies will label for it also. I think it’s time for more petitions like this one. Time for ALL food companies to label properly for allergens so that we know what our children are eating is safe.

If you have a child with food allergies, I encourage you to do your own research as well. It’s important and will be well worth it. And let your voice be heard with these food companies and the government. Let them know how food labeling can save lives.

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