This week, I nearly killed my son.
No, I am not speaking in that figuratively frustrated parental tone…quite literally, I nearly killed my son.
I would never intentionally hurt any of my children, and most would say I am an aware parent who would do anything she could for her children.
And then, I nearly killed my son.
Can you tell I have a bit of guilt?
How, you ask? Oh, well it’s simple really…I didn’t read my label.
You see, my second oldest child is highly allergic to shellfish. So allergic that I must carry an epi-pen with me wherever I go or send one with him when he will be away for any length of time. One little bite of anything even slightly contaminated with shellfish, he goes into anaphylactic shock.
So maybe I wouldn’t have killed him, but we surely would have ended up in the hospital for the day. And even though I caught my lapse in judgment before he had the opportunity to even open his package, it is quite obvious the shock of having even offered him something that could have hurt him so badly is looming over my head.
Generally, I do my best to avoid pre-packaged foods. But reality is, I am a mother of five who works full time, maintains a large garden, is the committee leader for our scout troop, highly active in church, the first counselor of a very large primary group and I still do my best to have a life of my own…there are times where a pre-packaged, prepared lunch just seems easier. Better? Heck no. But when you find that perfect world where I can squeeze everything and a gluten free batch of brownies that won’t cause my thighs to explode in…please let me know!
The company which manufactured the food I nearly killed my son with is a good company, one that I trust to feed my family, one where I have never had trouble reading labels before. Typically, any major allergens are clearly listed in bold print and easy to eliminate. This package, the one I have pictured below, is clearly labeled Gluten Free and has peanuts separated from the rest of the group…so, in my haste to get out of the grocery store before my five year old threw another pack of something we would never eat into the cart, I completely missed the “Shrimp Paste” which is listed as an ingredient in the Red Curry Sauce on the label.
Imagine this label 1/60th the size pictured below:
Now imagine trying to read this while juggling five children, keeping them from running off, grabbing things, breaking things, or even just getting in other shoppers way.
Yeah, an easy miss, right?
Current label guidelines allow manufactures options as to how they should list their allergens. The FDA shows acceptable labeling procedures as:
While clearly listing the allergens in a “Contains” list certainly makes things easier, and means the dozens of moms who like me juggle their children while trying to buy a week’s worth of groceries will have to spend less scrutinizing food for hidden ingredients…well, it is not the requirement, and therefore the company who manufactured the food I nearly killed my son with is perfectly in compliance.
Would you like to know what all has to be listed according to current US FDA Labeling Provisions?
Here’s your list:
a. milk, b. egg, c. fish, d. Crustacean shellfish, e. tree nuts, f. wheat, g. peanuts, h. soybeans.
Yep. That’s it.
Under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA), these are the ingredients that must be clearly listed. Most everything else can be lumped into “natural flavors” or called by a more common name (i.e. malt), without even a mention of the existing allergen (i.e. barley/gluten).
In fact, the FALCPA clearly states that more than 160 foods have been identified to cause food allergies in sensitive individuals. 160 foods! Yet only 8 are listed under the food allergen list?!?
Alright, so you might be thinking “well, maybe those 8 cover most of the more severe allergies.” Well maybe, according to FDA funded studies these 8 ingredients do cover the more severe allergies and we should be happy with maintaining this list, as it is. And we all know that government funded programs and government funded studies far exceed the expertise and extreme intelligence of Dr’s and allergen specialists who have no link to the government or the study…right?
Anyhow…This brings me to an event that is near and dear to my heart.
As you may know, May is National Celiac Awareness month. In 2007, the FALCPA tasked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to finalize standards for gluten-free labeling (yay!). Four years later, our nation is still waiting for the FDA to fulfill that mandate.
For the millions who suffer from gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, or any number of auto-immune, learning or mental impairments which are clearly affected by gluten, this is a BIG deal.
On May 4, 2011, through an organization known as 1in133 leading members of the gluten-free community will host the first Gluten Free Food Labeling Summit in Washington, D.C. This event will feature the world’s largest gluten-free cake, “symbolizing the big deal that clear, accurate, reliable labeling plays in the lives of people dependent on labeling for their health.”
We deserve clearer labels. More importantly, our children deserve clearer labels.
It is a matter of life or death.
Now, on to some even more enjoyable news!
After a brief hiatus, Ingredient Challenge Monday is back on track! This week, our group has been tasked with using the beautiful fruit, lemon, as the key ingredient. The perfect ingredient to transition into spring with, we all know that lemons are packed with Vitamin C. Did you also know that these little friends also provide a good amount of fiber, thiamin, riboflavin, iron and magnesium? When eaten as a whole fruit, they are also a good source of Vitamin B6, Calcium, Potassium and Copper.
WOW! Who knew all of this could be packed into one beautiful little yellow fruit?
I am so excited to see what DixieChikCooks has in store…as for me, I have a wonderfully simple, positively delicious whole-food recipe ready to please your sweet little tongue.
I will see you back here on Monday!