In a perfect world, all packaged food items would have comprehensive allergy warnings. Each ingredient would be clearly listed. There would be no jargon to decipher. But the world is far from perfect for people struggling with food allergies.
In June 2019, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) laid down guidelines for the proper labeling of products. But very few brands adhere to them. In fact, some have even protested adding allergy warnings as it apparently clubs them with tobacco products. Then there is the whole “giving away the secret ingredient”.
Reading labels can appear to be daunting. I share tips on how to read them to avoid allergy attacks. Tips that I swear by.
Avoid items with no ingredients list
There is a huge unorganized sector when it comes to food manufacturing in India. Food ingredient labels are not always included. It is time to be ruthless. If the item does not include an ingredients list, do not purchase it.
Read the ingredients list carefully
Familiarizing yourself with the allergen goes a long way in managing food allergies. Be aware of the items that commonly include it. Pine nuts in pesto sauce or almonds in marzipans. Avoid these items even if the allergen is not included in the list.
Allergy warnings are not always comprehensive. The allergen may seem inconspicuous among the ingredients listed on the label. They may be included in items you least expect. Read the list carefully to make an informed purchase.
Not just food items, check cosmetics and personal items too for ingredients. Particularly if you are allergic to nuts, milk, or eggs.
“May contain”. “Trace amounts”. “Made in a facility that processes…”. Precautionary labels are voluntary but are equally important. Be sure to check these labels to avoid cross-contamination.
Sunflower seeds generally do not cause nut allergies but are often processed in factories that process nuts. Similarly, glucose syrup may contain wheat.
Read every label, each time
It is imperative to read every label, each time when you purchase the item. Ingredients and manufacturing processes change all the time. Items that previously did not include an allergen can include it now.
And it is not just limited to food items. As someone allergic to nuts, I always check labels of beauty products for almond oil.How To Check Food Labels To Avoid An Allergy Attack #CauseAChatter #FoodAllergies #BohoPonderings Click To Tweet
When it doubt, leave it out
Sometimes the labels are tough to decipher. The manufacturer may use technical terms. For example, they may use albumin instead of eggs or casein instead of milk. In some cases, “natural flavoring” may include the allergen. If you are not sure about a particular ingredient, it is safer not to purchase the item.
Until there is more awareness among the manufacturers, the onus is upon us. In order to manage food allergies effectively, it is important to check the ingredients label. Follow the allergy awareness series for more discussions around allergies. Let us start a much-needed conversation around them.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical practitioner. The purpose of this series is to bring about awareness. Please consult an allergist/immunologist for queries and overall management of allergies.
As a part of Blogchatter’s Blogging with a Purpose campaign, I am using my voice to highlight something I care about.