Will there be anything left for people with food allergies to eat?

Added on 07 Mar, 2006 . There are .

Whilst the US Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act 2004 (FALCPA), that came into force 1 January 2006, has got to be a good thing, I'm starting to worry that there won't be much left for people with food allergies to eat based on reading the packaging.

This is something that I've blogged about before, manufacturers covering their butts by stating that everything they make MAY contain or have traces of blah blah blah.

But FALCPA 2004 is to protect people with food allergies right? Yes, but it also protects manufacturers because they will simply say it might contain an allergen, because it's easier than making sure it doesn't.

This week I decided to stock up on baking essentials, nuts, seeds etc. When I got home after buying cashew nuts, almonds, sunflower seeds and peanuts can you imagine my horror when I noticed, purely by chance, that the back of the packs said "Produced in a facility that also produces peanut, nut, cereal grain, wheat, soy and milk products".

Ok, so stating that nuts are produced in a facility that produces nuts is stating the obvious, but why should the nuts I bought, and the sunflower seeds, be contaminated with wheat, cereal grain, soy and milk products?

The problem is that I'd already eaten some of the nuts before I noticed this damning message. I didn't have a wheat reaction, but I now have a psychological issue. How can I eat something that was prepared in a facility that also prepares wheat according to the packaging, despite the fact that it obviously didn't on the occasion that I ate it.

And even more importantly, I can't source baking products that don't have this message on anymore.

While I applaud anything that makes it safer for people with food allergies to eat, the easy get out clause for manufacturers that it creates is going to make both my, and other peoples lives a whole lot more difficult too.

I can't eat something that has a label slapped on it saying it was produced in the same facility that produces wheat, because my brain just isn't going to let me do it.

How do I know that they are telling the truth? How do I know it's not just a get out clause for the manufacturer? How do I know that the wheat free granola I've bought hasn't had its nuts sourced from the same manufacturer that is saying his plain packaged nuts are produced in a facility processing wheat? Does the wheat free granola man have to take all his suppliers peculiarities or hygiene laziness into account on his own packaging?

Without the message I might have at least tried it if it looked safe from the ingredients list, i.e. sunflower seeds or nuts. Now my brain tells me it's not logical to do so, to be precise it screams it at me.

So the upshot is that FALCPA 2004 will protect people with food allergies because the eight major allergens must be listed on packaging, but it sure is going to cut out a lot more items that up until then appeared to be okay, and most probably were or are until the law got a bit more involved, and manufacturers started to sweat about being sued.