Since we opened the doors on July 1st, 2010 we have noticed several kinds of shoppers in the store. As a concerned parent we truly watch out for foods that possibly have cross contamination. When someone comes in with a new found allergen or celiac disease that is where the question comes in what about when the label says "may contain traces of". Following is an article written in Journal of Allergy and Immunology that breaks it down.
Highlights - July 2010
Lara S Ford, MD, MPH, Steve L Taylor, PhD, Robert Pacenza, BA, Lynn M Niemann, Debra M Lambrecht, BS, and Scott H Sicherer, MD
For people with food allergies, shopping for safe foods to insure effective avoidance can be very confusing. Packaged foods often have labels advising of possible allergen contaminants, using wording like “may contain” or “made in a facility that processes”. This labeling, though, is voluntary and not standardized or regulated. Surveys suggest that food-allergic consumers appear to be increasingly ignoring these warnings, presumably out of frustration and doubt about whether the information can be trusted.
In an upcoming issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found online now at www.jacionline.org, Ford and colleagues simultaneously investigate three important issues related to labeling and allergen contamination:
1) the frequency and level of contamination of a large sample of products with advisory labeling for three major allergens (egg, milk, and peanut),
2) differences in the contamination risks between large and small manufacturers, and
3) the frequency and level of contamination of products that lack advisory labeling but are similar to ones bearing allergen warnings.
The researchers obtained a sample of non-perishable products with advisory labeling for the three allergens and similar products without advisory labeling from multiple supermarkets in New York and New Jersey. They chose from eight product categories (baking mixes, chocolate candies, non-chocolate candies, cookies, salty snacks, cold cereals, pastas and pancake mixes) and each product was tested for egg, milk and/or peanut allergens where there was a reasonable possibility of contamination. The authors found detectable residues of the three allergens in 5.3% of advisory labeled products and in 1.9% of similar products without advisory statements. Of note: one supermarket chain used the label “Good Manufacturing Practices were used to segregate ingredients in a facility that also processes peanut, tree nuts, milk, shellfish, fish, and soy ingredients”, which could be interpreted to mean that the product was safe from contamination; however of 26 baking mixes tested with this label, milk contamination was detected in 2 and egg in 1. Small companies were found to have more contaminated foods, at 5.1% contamination, compared with 0.7% of products from large companies. Among products without advisory statements, no peanut was detected. More research is needed to determine the risk associated with contamination, but the levels of egg and milk detected among products without advisory statements ranged from levels unlikely to trigger symptoms to ones that could trigger symptoms for very sensitive persons, particularly for milk. Overall, these findings represent a real risk for consumers and highlight the need for allergic customers to avoid products with advisory labels and to have some concern for products that have no advisory labels, particularly from small companies within categories of higher risk products. These data also highlight the importance of increasing awareness among manufacturers, particularly smaller companies, of the need for appropriate labeling that accurately informs of risks and to take steps to further reduce contamination.
The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is the official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.