Become an advocate for clear and accurate food ingredient labels regarding top allergens
This petition had 2,283 supporters
Dear Mrs. Obama,
I am writing to you to express my disappointment with the press release announced a few days ago regarding the changes to our nutrition labels. While I commend the efforts of helping make Americans healthier, I believe you are neglecting a large portion of the population - 15million and rising to be exact. Who are those 15million? They are the Americans who suffer from food allergies, often life threatening and a large percentage of which are our children. Including your own child Malia, whom I was surprised to learn is allergic to peanuts, the number one food allergy and often the most likely to cause an anaphylactic reaction. How is this group being neglected? By not improving the ingredient labels while making this overhaul of nutrition labels.
Your quote "You as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into your grocery store, pick up an item off the shelf, and be able to tell whether it's good for your family" struck a nerve with me regarding a serious problem with our labeling system. You see as a food allergy mom, I can't just read a label and determine if it is even SAFE for my child let alone whether it is good for him. My son suffers from multiple life threatening food allergies including ones that fall outside of the top 8. His food allergies outside of the top 8 could hide under the headings "natural flavors" or "spices". So not only do I have to decipher hard to read labels, I have to contact every single company regarding every single product, every single time. This is not only time consuming, but often times an impossible task. There are several manufacturers who refuse to provide you with information to determine by our own personal standards whether a food is safe. Some claim ingredients are proprietary and won't let you know if an allergen outside of the top 8 is hidden under natural flavors without a fax from your allergist or just simply state do not buy our products if an allergen is a concern for you. Others won't let you know if peanuts are manufactured in the same facility or share the same equipment - something as a consumer we all have the right to know. Peanut is an allergen that could kill my child which even with proper allergen safety protocols I will not risk using those products. It is never a 100% guarantee of zero cross contamination unless they test for presence of allergens with every single batch.
The biggest issue with our current ingredient labeling system is labels are not clear or uniform. Every food allergy mom can probably admit they have gotten home from a long day of shopping and find a product that contains peanut or has a warning label. As hard as we read and read and read these labels, we miss things. The top 8 allergens need to be written in bold, so that we as mothers or caregivers (who are not as accustomed to reading labels) do not have to read a label 3 times over to make sure we did not miss something. Peanuts and other allergens can hide in unsuspecting places such as a can of vegetables, a refrigerated tube of cheddar biscuits, or a can of soup. The most helpful labels list the ingredients and directly underneath in bold include the statement "Contains..." listing the top 8 allergens that the product contains as an actual ingredient.
The secondary problem with our labeling system is voluntary warning labels. Each company and even each food allergy family has a different definition of these labels. The FDA should define the content of these labels and require them to be mandatory on each label. There are 3 warning labels currently displayed on some products that unfortunately companies use interchangeably - "Made in a facility with (insert top 8 allergen/s)"; "Shares equipment with (insert top 8 allergen/s)"; and "may contain (insert top 8 allergen/s)". These warning labels should not only be mandatory, but also used honestly and not a cover for all bases. There are many companies who do not use these labels at all even though their product may contain trace amounts of an allergen - enough to cause a severe reaction in highly sensitive people. To not cause confusion for food allergic consumers, these labels could be clearly defined as follows:
"Manufactured in a facility with (insert top 8 allergen/s)": This product is produced in a facility that also processes and/or packages said allergen/s in the facility.
"Shares equipment with (insert top 8 allergen/s)": This product shares equipment with said allergen, but strict allergen controls and cleaning are used to minimize risk of cross contamination.
"May Contain (insert top 8 allergen/s)": Despite our best efforts this product may contain trace amounts of said allergen or we do not employ measures to reduce the risk of cross contamination.
"Produced in a top 8 allergen free facility": This product and its ingredients are processed in a facility that does not produce and/or package any top 8 allergen.
Please take this information into consideration and become an advocate of clear, uniform and safe ingredient labels especially since this directly affects someone dear to you. We as consumers have a right to know what is in our food and how it is processed regardless of allergies. I hope you agree and take this opportunity to adapt your campaign to include accurate labeling for safety as well as health.
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