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Posted Jan 14 2009 7:50pm
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http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/lifestyle/health/chi-081120-allergens-tri

The above story is in today’s Chicago Tribune. It is an investigation into the threat our food allergic children face due to mislabeled products or unrecalled food. It also has compiled an unprecedented database of nearly 3,000 recalls related to food allergens: www.chicagotribune.com/allergy.

My own son John suffered two severe reactions in the past 6 years from products that didn’t have milk declared in the label (one reaction was before the food labeling law went into effect). I learned from FAAN months later that the Duncan Hines Cake Mix we used changed their product and now had milk in it. The other reaction was undeclared milk in prepackaged ham lunch meat. I wrote letters, reported the reaction but nothing ever came out of it. Based on the Tribune article, I guess I wasn’t alone in this occurance.

On behalf of anyone who has a child with life threatening food allergies, I am so grateful this story was told. But it also makes me uneasy, because it serves as a reminder we can’t completely trust the food manufacturers to be honest with us. Our children’s lives and safety lay in their hands, and at the hands of the FDA and USDA. As the article notes, the system is flawed, and it leaves all of us vulnerable to the possiblity of a life threatening reaction. 

Prior to today I have let John order two types of food in his school cafeteria, because on those mornings I walk into the kitchen, talk with the chef and check the product’s original packaging. This article proves what I have long suspected, no prepackaged food is completely safe because there can be issues with cross contmination and mislabeled ingredients. Needless to say, I will think twice about letting John eat the cafeteria’s food again.

The whole reason why I started baking and writing my dairy, egg and nut free cookbook is because after the Duncan Hines incident I doubted the reliability of prepackaged products’ labels. Even after the Food Labeling Law went into effect I still had doubts. Making a cake from a mix that could be contaninated with allergens wasn’t worth the risk. 

The time is now to make these giant food manufacturers, as well as our government, accountable for keeping our children safe. If not, I am sure we will see more deaths from food reactions than the 100-200 we see annually now. Even one death as a result from food is one too many.

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