Wow. Our food allergy community made fantastic strides in 2015 on many key issues, from state stock epinephrine laws and enhanced food label transparency to the many food allergy-related products that will help foster awareness and safety.
For me, September brought the exciting launch of my children’s book, HumFree the Bee Has a Food Allergy. Bringing HumFree to life has been rewarding on so many levels, as I’ve shared in my posts about his messages of hope and inclusion, along with how grateful I am for his gifted illustrator Brian Talbott.
But one thing someone said after reading HumFree really hit home and started me thinking about our food allergy community.
She said she was so proud of me for putting myself out there and sharing my gifts to help others.
I started thinking about all of us–fellow authors like Stephanie Sorkin, Desiree DeNourie and Gina Mennett Lee; singer and puppeteer Kyle Dine; fellow food allergy mamas who graciously reviewed HumFree; tireless food allergy advocates and educators like Homa Woodrum, Thanita Glancey, Kristin Beltaos and Caroline Moassessi; FABlogCon chief Jenny Dare Mitchell Sprague; and yummy recipe creators like Laura O, Rachel Hayden and Sharon Wong.
And of course all of us are sharing our experiences and the latest news in an effort to keep our food allergy community informed. Oh, there are so many people in this food allergy community who are sharing their talents and who have touched my life this year. I could go on and on.
Wow. We are doing a lot! While having busy families, hectic days and of course food allergies and other health issues, all of us in this wonderful food allergy community are sharing our special gifts to help make strides, increase awareness and transparency, and essentially make the world a safer place for our little ones. How cool are we!
Moving Forward With Food Labels, Transparency and Disclosure
While there are many noteworthy milestones from 2015, we saw a lot of action on the food allergy news front with regard to advocating for better disclosure of food allergens on the part of manufacturers. This will really affect us in the new year.
One issue for food allergy parents has been navigating the FDA’s food recalls due to the presence of undeclared allergens, because the FDA is finding food allergens “where they shouldn’t be,” according to a SnackSafely.com report.
Many in the food allergy community, especially groups like SnackSafely.com, have been actively advocating for greater and better disclosures on the FDA’s food labels in the United States. Basically, only the so-called Top 8 allergens–milk, egg, soy, wheat, peanut, tree nut, shellfish and fish–that are ingredients in a product are covered by the FDA’s guidelines. But as we all know, we are allergic to many other things.
Too, under the FDA’s rules, manufacturers must disclose and label if these allergens are ingredients of a product, but one of the problems is that the FDA does not require disclosure of potential cross-contamination with these allergens. Thus, manufacturer disclosures about these risks are all across the board and therefore difficult to navigate and rely on.
This gray zone, if you will, is something that has been difficult for many parents like me to wrap our minds around as well as navigate while trying to keep our children with food allergies safe. It basically means that manufacturer warnings like “may contain” and “manufactured on equipment with” are voluntary.
So, SnackSafely.com warns, the absence of a warning doesn’t mean there isn’t a risk.
As the FDA explains in its consumer update, “some labels may not be as reliable as they should be.” (For more details on the FDA’s consumer update, “Finding Food Allergens Where They Shouldn’t Be,” visit the FDA’s website here.)
In this spirit, Snack.Safely.com has partnered with 40 companies with the launch of Allergence–a free service that will provide information about how 11 allergens–the “Top 8” allergens plus gluten, sesame and mustard–are processed during the manufacturing stage of each product.
In a similar vein, as reported by food allergy mom and advocate Homa Woodrum on her blog Oh Mah Deehness! and according to its Nov. 18, 2015, petition and press release, the Washington, D.C. nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) asked the FDA to add sesame seeds and sesame products to the FDA’s list of allergens that are required to be disclosed in the ingredient lists of foods by manufacturers.
Sure enough, as I wrote this outlook piece, Congress introduced a bill that would improve manufacturers’ labels of food allergens and add sesame to this list! According to a post by AAFA, this would help approximately 300,000 to 500,000 Americans who are allergic to sesame. How cool would this be. It would be a fantastic starting point!
The Auvi-Q Recall and Our Food Allergy Community
Of course, another recall that essentially rocked many of our worlds over the past few months was the recall of the Auvi-Q epinephrine auto-injector. What a whirlwind that was. But thank goodness it was recalled and is behind us.
Hopefully, an improved product will be shared down the road. In the meantime, many of us have been reacquainting ourselves with our EpiPens, for which I’m so grateful.
Food Allergy Parents Who Share Their Gifts
As a food allergy mama whose family’s health and safety rely on accurate readings of ingredient labels every day, these advocacy strides initiated by members of our community give me great hope.
After all, if what we put in our mouths can be life-threatening for our bodies, we need to know exactly what we’re eating. Here’s to everyone’s continued efforts for better and immediate disclosure and transparency.
I’m so grateful to all of the inspiring members of our food allergy community as you share your gifts in an effort to promote food allergy awareness and make the world a safer place for out little ones.
I’m so very hopeful for the year ahead. Let’s keep it up. Step by step, we can make a difference!
Photo illustration designed by Brian Talbott. (Copr. 2016 @ Mothernova LLC. All rights reserved.)