March 1, 2007

Does the Food Allergy Labeling Law Go Too Far?

Presenters at the at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) annual meeting say that food allergy labelling rules may create challenges for the food allergy community.

Beginning January 2006, the Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) came into effect and required producers to label whether their products contain any of the 8 common food allergens. We've all see the "may contain" statements to identify egg, peanut, milk, tree nut, fish, shellfish, wheat or soy.

Researchers at University of Nebraska-Lincoln analysed labelling of cookies in summer 2005 and then in summer of 2006. They purchased every type of cookie available at four major stores in two states and reviewed the labels for compliance with the act. They found the new law is definitely having an impact.

Of 821 different types of cookies examined, 82% were in compliance 6 months ahead of the new rules. Imported cookies were less likely to be compliant than cookies produced domestically (70% compared with 86%).

One concern raised is the increased difficulty for those on avoidance diets. Food allergic consumers have many fewer choice because of the increase in "may contain" warnings on food labels. Does the new law go too far? The study found that only 7% of cookies have peanuts in the ingredient list, but another 39% had "may contain peanuts" warnings.

As parents, we tend to err on the side of safety. If it says "may contain", it's off our list. Are our kids missing out on some store bought goodies? Sure. However, I'd argue that they are eating much better and healthier because their mom loves them and puts in the extra effort on the homemade cookie front.


Posted by David at 7:28 AM

March 2, 2006

What about babies, food introduction and food allergies?

OK, my very non-medical opinion is that children are wired for food allergies, well before they make their first appearance into this world. A study published in Pediatrics, February 2006, states, “Delaying the introduction of solid food beyond 6 months of age does not protect against the development of allergic dermatitis, the results of a new study show. However, delayed introduction of solid food for the first 4 months of life ‘might offer some protection.’" Isn’t it common sense and standard pediatric practice not to introduce solid foods before 4 months of age? I guess some parents might still add rice cereal to formula or breast milk for various reasons.

Years ago, when I became pregnant, I thought I was well aware of the food allergy do’s and don’ts because I already had one child with food allergies. It was mostly the “don’ts” I listened to: don’t eat peanuts or tree nuts, don’t eat shellfish, don’t eat eggs, don’t consume dairy when you’re breastfeeding, don’t supplement with formula, don’t laugh too much (OK, I just threw that one in!). I thought if I avoided so many allergens, my child would grow up allergy free. WRONG!

This same study reports, “There was also no evidence to support a protective role of delaying the introduction of solid foods on the development of allergic dermatitis and sensitization in children who had parents with allergies.” So, unless I changed my baby’s mother and father (right!), then she was destined to have allergies. And she does. Lots of them! And eczema. Lots of that too!

I’m not suggesting that people introduce allergens into an infant’s diet because it doesn’t matter, I just think people shouldn’t get their hopes up. Our genetic make-up is what it is. So, we should educate ourselves and surround ourselves with a knowledgeable support network. You know, people who actually LIVE with food allergies, not those who are quick to offer advice but don’t really get it!

In a state of frustration at a time when ALL of my children were suffering rather intensely from respiratory allergies, I once asked my allergist if it could be the house we lived in. She looked at me rather empathetically, and said, “No, dear. It’s your genes.”


Posted by Ann Marie at 5:44 PM

November 18, 2005

Infant and Toddler Food Allergies - the early years

Our 3rd child exhibited signs of food allergies very early. I remember many a night walking back and forth with her in my arms, trying to calm her down. She was showing signs of eczema. At that time, I was unfamiliar with any type of food allergy. It wasn’t until she was a toddler did we finally get her tested for food allergies and, boy did she ever have child food allergies… nuts, wheat, barley, beef and eggs (and some other I don’t remember now).

Many new parents will experiment and try to introduce table foods to expand their child’s diet. But according to Samuel Grubman of St. Vincent’s Hospital in a recent article on
infant food allergies, if given before the age of one, some foods can cause serious, even fatal reactions.

“The first sign of allergy usually in infants is eczema, which is a dry, itchy, scaly skin condition the hallmarks are really itching and dryness and redness of the skin. You can develop more severe manifestations all the way to anaphylaxis, which could include wheezing, cardiovascular collapse.”

“There are certain foods that are not recommended for the first year of life, eggs are not recommended, shell fish, fish, nuts, peanuts are not recommended until after the first year of life, specifically after the age of two,” cautioned Dr. Grubman. Citrus fruits, strawberries and chocolate should all be avoided.

If you or your spouse suffer from allergies (especially food allergies) or your other kids are allergic you should definitely avoid the most common food allergy foods, such as nuts, shell fish and eggs.

As always, we recommend you consult with your trusted allergist before introducing your child to any new foods.

Posted by David at 11:38 AM | Comments (1)