After attending a FAAST meeting last night, I learned of a few changes we need to make in regards to keeping the boys safe from cross-contamination of their food allergens.
There were two speakers, Gale Prince and Mark Redmond. Both speakers came forth with very important information, but I will focus on what Gale had to say. He worked for the Kroger company for years. He is very involved in the labeling process of packaged food. Gale was very involved in the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (Title II of Public Law 108-282) to change the law on how food allergens are listed on our food labels. He is now involved in tweaking the many loopholes that still exist in the act. What I also found particularly helpful is that Gale is very familiar with production and manufacturing processes of our packaged and prepared food. He brought to light some the the difficulties that manufacturers have in regards to preventing cross-contamination.
In regards to some of the food allergens that we in particular have to watch out for- peanut, tree-nuts, and eggs, I learned of some things that we have to change immediately.
First of all, we need to avoid getting things from the deli. The risk of cross-contamination of eggs, nuts, and dairy(for those who need to avoid dairy) is very high. This was news to me; we have been getting deli meat and cheese all along! What I did not realize is that the deli is responsible for preparing other things such as the sides that you can get at the deli counter (egg salad, Waldorf chicken salad, potato salad, etc.) I think the danger speaks for itself. It is much safer to purchase pre-packaged deli products, as they are packaged in a separate facility where there are no other foods. The guidelines for labeling the pre-packaged deli products are much more strict than when purchasing things straight from the deli.
Another kind of food that we need to avoid are the things that are produced on shared equipment. The food allergen act does not require companies to list “possible cross-contamination.” They are only required to list any of the allergens if they are an actual ingredient of what ever that particular product happens to be.
For instance, ice cream is particularly susceptible. The speaker suggested that if we were to use pre-packaged ice cream, that we should stick with vanilla. It is almost always the first flavor produced of the day, therefore other flavors that contain the food allergens are produced later. The manufacturing lines are cleaned between flavors, but not as astringent as at the end of the day in which they are cleaned with more of a sanitation routine. In my opinion, the risk of a stray peanut being missed by the cleaning process is still too much of a risk for my children. So, for now we will only let them eat ice cream made at home.
One last piece of knowledge that I left with was that I should be looking for the additive called lysozyme. It is a derivative of egg, therefore it may be an issue for us since we have an egg allergy to watch out for. Apparently it is not considered one of the allergens that companies have to label since it is only a derivative.
Thanks to these two men who are actively working to make eating safer for our children. Also, thanks to all of you (our family and friends) for taking the time to read or updates in the same effort to help us keep our children safe. You are all a true blessing!