Talking Allergies

Frustrated with "Precautionary Statements" that are OVERUSED
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Author:  MomOnTheGo [ Thu Jan 03, 2013 3:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Frustrated with "Precautionary Statements" that are OVERUSED

Something is wrong. There are more and more families trying to purchase safe products for their allergic members, and fewer and fewer products to choose from! I found yet another product this week that I've used for years that now says "This is made in a facility that uses egg." I called the manufacturer to see what had changed in their processes, and they assured me that the processing lines were all still cleaned to the same standards as before so the product itself contained virtually no risk. But they are changing all of their labels over to this new statement as another "division" (ie. separate facility" of their plant did use egg products. FRUSTRATING!

I feel like the whole manufacturing industury is just jumping on board with quick ways to wash their hands of any liability, instead of focusing on processing products according to standards that are reasonable and have worked up until now. They are not being more helpful to the food allergic - they are limiting us from what we can safely consume and causing uncessary stress and inconvenience.

Anyone else feel the same? Something has to be done to ensure precautionary labelling isn't misused.......! :evil:

Author:  Sarah388 [ Thu Jan 03, 2013 10:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Frustrated with "Precautionary Statements" that are OVER

I've been finding the same thing. I walk through my grocery store and all I see are huge signs saying "May contain peanuts, tree nuts, or other allergens." So frustrating. I finally asked an employee and spoke to the manager of one of the stores and was told this was Loblaws/Zehrs protocol for ALL food entering the store that does not have a symbol saying "free of...(insert allergen). So they are just covering their butts so they don't have to take any responsibility :dungetit :verymad I told them it was BS! and asked what I am supposed to do.... no response just walked away from me :banghead

Author:  Becky [ Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Frustrated with "Precautionary Statements" that are OVER

Very frustrating, I have found the same thing.

Author:  _Susan_ [ Fri Jan 04, 2013 8:33 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Frustrated with "Precautionary Statements" that are OVER

I think we need to make Health Canada (or it's US equivalent) aware of allergen labelling mis-use.
Health Canada's policy for enhancing the protection of food-allergic consumers in Canada is based on two guiding principles:
-prevent the inadvertent consumption of undeclared allergens by sensitive consumers; and
-enable a variety of safe and nutritious food choices for the allergic consumer.

Conditions for the Use of Food Allergen Precautionary Statements and Future Directions:
Health Canada still considers the use of allergen precautionary statements to be a useful tool in mitigating adverse reactions to priority food allergens if the statements are used appropriately. Precautionary labelling should only be used when, despite all reasonable measures, the inadvertent presence of allergens in food is unavoidable. It must not be used when an allergen or allergen-containing ingredient is deliberately added to a food. Furthermore, the use of a precautionary statement where there is no real risk of an allergen being present in the food is contrary to the Department's goal of enabling a variety of safe and nutritious food choices for the allergic consumer.

There is consensus among the various stakeholders that further guidance is needed regarding the use of allergen precautionary labelling. To address the potential risks associated with mis-use or misinterpretation of food allergen statements, Health Canada is recommending a single food allergen precautionary statement. ... te-eng.php

Author:  MomOnTheGo [ Fri Jan 04, 2013 10:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Frustrated with "Precautionary Statements" that are OVER

I completely agree. It seems as though we've gone from a decade ago of not having any labelling notices to the absolute extreme of labelling everything! (when not necessary). Who do we hold accountable for this?

These businesses need to realize that the allergic world is growing, not disappearing, and that they are not doing themselves a service by worrying more about liability than they are good practice.

Where do we start to change this movement? :scratchy

Author:  MomOnTheGo [ Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Frustrated with "Precautionary Statements" that are OVER

OK....I just went on the Health Canada website and sent the following email. Not sure if I'll get any response, but if I do I'll share it with you.

"Having two allergic children in my home, I am finding it increasingly difficult to grocery shop at any store as it seems as though over the last six months more and more products are now adding extra precautionary statements to almost everything!! I’ve discussed this with many parents across the country, and we all feel the same enormous frustration, as it seems that precautionary statements are being used more by manufacturers and stores as liability protection than anything.

I’ve called many suppliers regarding these newly added statements, which have suddenly appeared on products I’ve safely used for years, and they’ve assured me that nothing had changed in their production lines….it’s just that their company has made a decision to add the statement to protect them from any potential liability. This seems very wrong – instead of focusing on good manufacturing practices, they are taking the easy way out. This is a complete disservice and insult to consumers.

One of our most basic rights is to be able to provide food for our families. The allergic world is not disappearing….it is exponentially growing. It is extremely stressful and disheartening to go to a store and have very few options for our families. Something needs to be done, and I believe it needs to be reinforced at a national level.

PLEASE do not take this lightly, as this is something that affects a majority of Canadian families these days. Something needs to be done to ensure these manufacturers and stores work through this with consumers in a reasonable fashion."

Author:  _Susan_ [ Fri Jan 04, 2013 12:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Frustrated with "Precautionary Statements" that are OVER

Good job! I'm pretty sure you'll get a response.

Author:  Sarah388 [ Fri Jan 04, 2013 9:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Frustrated with "Precautionary Statements" that are OVER

Great Letter! Thanks for doing that :). Can't wait to hear their response. Hopefully we can change this.

Author:  walooet [ Sat Jan 05, 2013 4:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Frustrated with "Precautionary Statements" that are OVER

My child has had reaction to a product where the allergen is in the same plant so for us that is not an overused statement. However, we know many people who are not as sensitive and have no problem eating foods like that.

Superstore is great when you call them because they break it down to:
* in the product
* on the same line
* in the same plant

Sometimes Sobeys will also have that info.

Author:  spacecanada [ Mon Jan 07, 2013 4:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Frustrated with "Precautionary Statements" that are OVER

I have reacted to items where my allergen is used in the facility as well, but I don't think that's the issue of concern. I think it's labels that say 'may contain' when there is no reasoning behind it. Like a company adding precautionary labels to every product even though only a few products may be affected. (Sarah388's post)

Getting a bit off track here...
I wish precautionary labelling would become law when a priority allergen is used on the same line as one without, regardless of cleaning methods. I can dream, right?

For Christmas I received some candy canes and the label said they were made on a nut-free and gluten-free line in a segregated part of a facility that also processes XYZ allergens. It was fantastic use of precautionary labelling.

Anyway, I hope we see a reply to your letter. When things get out of hand, sometimes it takes a few people to report it to get things back in line, or closer to it. Keep us posted.

Author:  renie [ Thu Jan 10, 2013 9:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Frustrated with "Precautionary Statements" that are OVER

I am with walooet here and know that puts me in a minority.

Please - I know a lot of you may not like this post but I hope you will see that it represents a lived experience of our community somewhere along this very diverse spectrum.

More than once, more than twice, my daughter has had full blown anaphylactic reactions because companies have not adequately disclosed the risk of cross contamination; even after discussions with them.

Twice CFIA has been involved (and once the CFIA and their US equivalent) and found trace of the protein. Once is was so eensy, weensy that they were extremely surprised that it had triggered a reaction of any severity. Eensy, weensy protein concentrations - "statistically insignificant" I was told but records at Sick Kids where multiple teams of specialists were required to stabilise my daughter mean that it is not insignificant to us.

On a day-to-day basis, what these labels mean to me is less time on the phone trying to determine:
(a) are the allergens stored on the site? if yes, what practices are in place, and,
(b) are the allergens processed on the same line.

Given our experiences, we have learned that if the answer to (b) is yes, then it is unsafe for our family.

[Again with walooet here as President's Choice is AMAZING - they maintain a database of all their products and whether any of the 9 priority allergens are (i) in the product, (ii) on the line or (iii) in the facility. If they don't have the record from the manufacturers, they will get it and call you back. Even better, some of their agents are so sensitive they will say "the record is about 5 years old - would you like me to request updated information and call you back?"]

It *may* be safe for your family and I can appreciate that you don't like their use of this practice but it does save me hours on the phone and gives me back time with the children (guess what? customer service is not open after the kids are in bed). It is not atypical to discover that the people who answer the phone are not 'allergy-educated' and just know / read a stock response. It is not infrequent that they are unable to answer questions to a satisfactory degree (and I completely appreciate how expensive this would be for any producer given that allergy inquiries are only one of many call-types).
We often need to actually be put in touch with a production manager or someone in their QA department.

Sounds like a hassle, right? It is.
It is also very disappointing for kids who can read labels (yay plain English!) and still know that if we don't know the labelling practices, you can't actually eat it yet - not until you know it is safe.
(Also, it is further isolating for the kids when they do meet other kids with allergies who can rely on labels.)

You probably think I am being overly-cautious and you can write me off as that if you wish. It is however our lived, practical reality.

For us, these labels mean the product doesn't come in the house. Products that look safe by labelling still require our family to educate ourselves on a company's labelling practices (they are not nearly as homogenous as you may think). In Canada, if a company follows "Good Manufacturing Practices" (GMP) a non-allergic product and an allergy containing product can be processed on the same line.

One of my daughter's reactions was a very well respected company that make organic pastas. They didn't disclose a risk of egg allergy as they follow GMP; I completely believe that they honestly thought there was no risk.
However, I didn't know that meant egg could be on the same line and we were so new, I didn't know to ask. I fed her the pasta and we went to Sick Kids by 911. With CFIA involvement, it was discovered that they processed the "non-egg pastas" then bleached the lines then processed egg pasta. GMP. No need to label for "may contain". Unacceptable risk for my family.

I don't expect you to change your minds. I also don't go out there with unreasonable requests. I view my "mom" responsibility as advocating for my kids and educating them to be self-advocates who know how to manage safely day-to-day in a world containing their allergens.

Hopefully, food for thought so to speak

Author:  walooet [ Fri Jan 11, 2013 10:24 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Frustrated with "Precautionary Statements" that are OVER

Fabulous post Renie!

My daughter is allergic to tree nuts and had a reaction to a product that only said "May contain soy." The company initially said there were not tree nuts in the facility then called back to confirm there were 3 tree nuts there.

Author:  spacecanada [ Fri Jan 11, 2013 6:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Frustrated with "Precautionary Statements" that are OVER

Well written! I have to agree with everything you said. I too have had some nasty reactions to items that didn't have any warnings. Certainly not fun and it can make you question everything you eat. Clear 'may contain' labels would be a dream.

Author:  Julie [ Fri Jan 11, 2013 8:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Frustrated with "Precautionary Statements" that are OVER

This is a very interesting discussion. We're such a supportive and respectful group, I personally think it's fine to discuss our varying opinions here. We don't always have to "agree" given our unique situations... and as long as we maintain a respectful discussion (and I find we always do!!) these discussions are invaluable and very educational to hear different individuals perspectives. Renie and walooet, we are with you as well as our son has had reactions to foods that have not included the warnings... particularly with pastas that often do not label for "may contain egg". I appreciate when I see a company is labeling for "may contains" as we are dealing with so many allergens, and I've spent a lot of time phoning various companies (I still place many calls to confirm product safety). Once I have confirmed, by phone, the policies for labeling for may contains with a specific company, I have learned to trust the labeling of various companies using this system, and I know I can trust the products they produce because they DO label for may contains. The best labeling I've seen is even more specific, indicating whether it's in the plant, on the same line, or words to this effect. We can then make an informed decision. Our son reacted to a pasta, that he had eaten many many times, without incident, until the day he had a reaction and we ended up using the Epipen and spent time in the ER. This was because egg was on the same line, and the stringent cleaning procedure was not sufficient - at least not this particular time. Initially this company told me there is a possiblity that egg could be in the product due to products containing egg being produced on the same line; 3 weeks later I was called again to say there is no egg in the product (??). We knew our son had reacted to this product, so we could not trust this information. Sure enough, I called about 2 years after the reaction, and they were now warning people, despite the stringent cleaning procedure, that those individuals highly allergic to egg should not consume this product. Still, this company does NOT label for "may contain egg". I find this frustrating and not responsible. So, for those individuals that are highly allergic, it is very helpful. We only buy foods made and produced by large companies with responsible labeling, including "may contains" as required. I do feel very sad when a food we used to count on is no longer available due to the product no longer deemed safe for our son, but it's not worth the risk if I now see a "may contain" that did not previously exist. Thanks for this interesting discussion. We're all helping each other to stay safe!

Author:  Sarah388 [ Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Frustrated with "Precautionary Statements" that are OVER

I agree that precautionary statements are needed. I have reacted to soy milk several times until I finally figured out that they also process almonds on the same line and there was NO warning. In that instance there should be a warning. My problem is when there is no need for warnings but they are there anyway like in Zehrs fruit/veggie section and meat section. There are no nuts there and the employees in those areas have told me several times that the employees in the nut section are not allowed to be in the meat section so there is really no risk but they still choose to put those signs up making it impossible to buy any meat for fear that maybe that one time it might have traces.
I am just frustrated and tired of eating boxed chicken all the time bc I cannot find a butcher in my area that doesn't have nuts in the store. I have been traveling 3 hrs to buy meat from a butcher in Owen Sound (where I grew up) just for a change every once in a while. I usually end up raiding my parents freezer when I go home.

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