Talking Allergies

Your dream label...input needed!
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Author:  aaronsmom [ Sun Jul 26, 2009 1:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Your dream label...input needed!

On Friday, I went to a focus group on food labeling. It was funded by Allergen and facilitated by researchers at UBC. There were 10 of us label readers there. We answered questions for 2 hours about what we needed/wanted/found helpful/unhelpful regarding how companies label food.

What do you think? I thought I would pose the question here and see what comes up, and then see if I can pass it on (even if I can't, at least it will open up dialogue)...that will help the government and manufacturers as they come up with new guidelines and policies.
Here's some ideas to get you started, but please include what is relevant to you that I have forgotten.

What wording is most helpful? What placement? What has confused you? What other information needs to be included that is not included now. etc. What's better: "may contain..." or "free of..."? What's better: "may contain..." or" manufacturered in a facility..." or .... Should manufacturers have some sort of certification system or way of showing us that they have complied with good practices (sort of like a good housekeeping seal of approval)...

Don't worry about being too detailed or specific.

For example, one thing that came up was that one person could tolerate soy lecithin, even though she had to avoid soy in other forms, so just having 'soy" on a label was not helpful for this person, because it meant that people who have to avoid soy, but can tolerate soy lecithin, find that too restrictive. As soy lecithin is in many, many products this is a really good point.

What blew me away was the depth of knowledge the 10 of us had about food manufacturing practices and what it all meant. For a bunch of lay people, we had a lot of knowledge. It was obvious how much time and thought we all spend on this stuff.

Please take some time to think and respond. Thanks.

Author:  crickette79 [ Sun Jul 26, 2009 9:47 pm ]
Post subject: 

I am fairly new to label reading but I find the many different variations on may contains to be irritating. I'd like more info from the manufacturer on exactly what kind of risk it means. What I'm trying to say is that I would like to know if:

1. A product is made on shared equipment. I feel this is risky and I would never knowingly buy a product made on shared equipment with peanuts/nuts no matter how stringent their cleaning practices are.

2. A product is made in the same facility but not on shared equipment. For instance, seeing that "may contains" label on a candy cane is depressing. If it's made on a different floor from it's nutty counterparts, I don't really feel this is a real risk. Maybe it's a low risk, and it's good to know, but it doesn't pose the same risk as shared equipment in my mind. Heck, if it's made on the same floor but not on same equipment, it's probably safe, too, but I would feel a little uneasier about it.

Anyway, that's what I'd like. Just a little clarification on the risk level.

Author:  _Susan_ [ Mon Jul 27, 2009 6:41 am ]
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What crickette79 said! :)

I would love allergen label laws to be extended to include drugs, cosmetics, topical ointments (lotions/creams) and personal hygiene items (toothpaste, deoderant etc).

I would love companies 1-800 numbers to be available 24/7 as I often shop outside of business hours (hello? ... many of us work at that time!)

I often feel like the customer service representative is reading from a script. If this is true, perhaps having the telephone prompt direct callers to an automated message which clearly outlines the companies policy regarding allergy labelling and may contain statements would be helpful and cleaning/testing of shared lines/equipment. That might be enough for many of us, the rest could leave a message for follow up.

Author:  Pat [ Fri Aug 07, 2009 11:07 pm ]
Post subject:  labelling

I would also like to see the labelling laws extended to personal care items, drugs etc.
In addition, I would like to something created along the lines of the material safety data sheets (.MSDS) called a Food Safety Data Sheet (FSDS) which would be required to be sent to processors by suppliers listing all the ingredients in their flavouring, colouring, spices etc annually or anytime an ingredient changed. It would make it so much easier if we could rely on labels.

Author:  gwentheeditor [ Sat Aug 08, 2009 1:04 pm ]
Post subject: 

Food and personal care/drug items don't fall under food regs.

They are under a different section. Here are the updated Cosmetics Regulations that came into effect a couple of years ago: ... bo-ga:s_17

These are a big improvement compared to the sketchy labelling in past, but they're still not the clearest. e.g. I particularly find toothpaste troubling. Since put it right in our mouths ....

Author:  gwentheeditor [ Sat Aug 08, 2009 1:19 pm ]
Post subject: 

What wording is most helpful? What placement? What has confused you? What other information needs to be included that is not included now. etc. What's better: "may contain..." or "free of..."? What's better: "may contain..." or" manufactured in a facility..." or .... Should manufacturers have some sort of certification system or way of showing us that they have complied with good practices (sort of like a good housekeeping seal of approval)...

Re Pam's questions for the studiers ...

- I like "may contain" not "free of" - I want to know what is in it, and decide for myself. As the allergic person dealing with numerous companies, my comfort level is deciding on the basis of what is in the product, not what isn't. "Free of" may be useful in marketing, but the thorough ingredient list needs to be there.

- Consistency is important. There has been much talk about "contains statements" (in addition to "may contains")
I think potential allegens always need to be in the ingredients list, not just a bold statement of Contains: peanut or soy ... . While there was some talk that that would be better because it would be bolder, I think that once acclimatized to ingredient list reading, people living with allergies might miss a bigger label - because they're just reading the ingreds. And when you train relatives to read the ingredients before feeding you or your child, you can't know if they saw a big "contains ..." And since you're dealing with many different companies and packages - consistency is everything.

- I like Crickette's points about the shared equipment. Again, we need standards of consistency. If it was communicated to manufacturers that:
"Manufactured in the same facility" meant - not on the same equipment, that would open the door to some people when dealing with less serious allergies or perhaps OAS.
"Manufactured on equipment with peanuts" (or whatever) would only be used when machines are shared. The difficulty here - some makers do a super power wash between nuts or dairy. Is that enough to prevent allergic reactions or not? Therefore does that get called a "shared equipment" warning or a "same facility" warning?

- Certification systems are and too be encouraged. Because rigorous testing is involved, they contribute to a sense of comfort with products. . There are already a couple in place - e.g. AQAA's. Downside: costly, time-consuming procedures, so you're only going to get a certain no. of manufacturers buying in.

- Excellent point on soy lecithin .... I'm really soy sensitive, and even have reacted to a soy oil, which is supposed to hydrolized/no protein. So I need to know about lecithin, whereas another soy allergic wouldn't want to be restricted from eating that.

Author:  BC2007 [ Sun Aug 09, 2009 8:42 pm ]
Post subject: 

My dream label would include the I would LOVE for companies to stop putting ingredient labels on shiny packaging. I also can't stand how some companies (say on sour cream) write the ingredients in a circle. HELLO, I need to take a gravol by the time I'm done reading the already blurred print on plastic and then turning the container after reading each ingredient. - I admit it is old age but my eyes water and cross trying to read these labels.
I also find it irritating how many ingredient labels are on the neck of a bottle (dressings etc.) where you rip half the label when you open the product. Once open you can't read the label any longer. (I did email Kraft about this concern).
I also (and again did email) find it irritating how some products (minigo yogurt for example) only put the ingredients on ONE of the six yogurts. Once you've eaten the one with the label you can't check ingredients after that. This happened to us at a friends house so I wouldn't let our son eat the yogurt as I couldn't confirm no gelatin as the 5 left of the six had no ingredients marked. I know she felt badly as she'd bought these especially for our son but I without reading the feeding the boy!!

Author:  _Susan_ [ Sun Aug 09, 2009 9:21 pm ]
Post subject: 

How about the ingredients on lollipop wrappers that are then twisted so you can't read the ingredients or the 1-800 number to call to check? :roll:

Author:  BC2007 [ Mon Aug 10, 2009 9:08 am ]
Post subject: 

Ok, another yogurt label gripe. I found a second type of yogurt which has no gelatin. It is an Astro style and comes in a 12 pk. wrapped in cardboard type package. I just realized there are NO ingredients listed on any of the yogurts. Each individual cup says to "see the overwrap for nutritional information" BUT even this (oh so helpful tid -bit!!!) is printed on the side of the cup where you have to begin snapping them a part to read this .
Well recycling day was Thursday so the cardboard is gone .GGRRRRR.

Author:  Pat [ Mon Aug 10, 2009 9:26 am ]
Post subject: 

The ingredient / nutritional label should be a separate label produced in house by producers to ensure that any change is reflected on a label. Line changes don't necessarily change at the same time as the supply of wrappers.

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