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Food Labels and What We Can Learn From Dr. Seuss

Food Labels and Dr Seuss
On National Read Across America Day, we had a little fun with a Dr. Seuss hat at Allergy Orchard.

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

March 2, 2019, would be Theodor Seuss Geisel’s 115th birthday if he were still alive.  Because of his work with literacy, the month around his birthday has become a time to focus on literacy and reading. At Allergy Orchard, we want to encourage everyone to read more this month.  Specifically, we want to talk about the reading of food labels.

What does Dr. Seuss have to do with food allergies?

Did Dr. Seuss have food allergies?  Not that we are aware of.  But, he does play an important role in food allergy safety.  Dr. Seuss has helped millions of people learn to read. And reading is one of the key ways to prevent allergic reactions.  Read every food label every time.  This means if you don’t read it…don’t eat it!

Read Across America

Schools, libraries and businesses are celebrating Read Across America during March.  We would like to see more reading of food labels across America (and the world) to keep people safe.  At Allergy Orchard, we see many expert label readers. On the other hand, some people do not even read the labels.  In I Can Read With My Eyes Closed, Dr Seuss wrote: “I can read in red. I can read in blue. I can read in pickle color too.”   As far as we are concerned, this is a great reminder to read every label…..even the pickle labels!

What do we need to know about food labels?

The number one thing you need to know about food labels is to read them every time.  Even if you have a food that you eat every day, take a moment and read the label every time you purchase a new bag/box.  Companies can and do change ingredients.  The only way to know that the food is still safe, is to read the label.  This means every time!

The second thing is to make sure you know how to read food labels correctly.  We will send you to the experts for that!  One of our favorite places to get information is Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE).  FARE has 3 great pages on their website that help consumers understand how to read labels.  How to Read Food Labels has some great tips about reading labels. Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act is about the law and what it covers. Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About FALCPA breaks down the information on the law in greater detail.

Do you understand food labeling laws?

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) went into effect in 2006. Several of our customers have been incorrect about what foods are covered by the law. Additionally, people do not understand what the label will say/look like.  FALCPA has done great things for making life safer for people with food allergies. However, if you don’t understand the law and what it covers then you could be putting yourself into a dangerous situation.  Again, we refer you to FARE.  Their page, Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About FALCPA is particularly helpful for understanding the law.

Two misconceptions we often hear in the store

At Allergy Orchard, we keep hearing two common misconceptions about labeling. These misconceptions are: what foods are covered by the law and how the wording must be written.

Confusion about WHAT foods are covered by the law

We have found that many people do not understand which foods are covered by FALCPA.  As of March 1, 2019, only the top 8 major allergens are required to be clearly listed.  We often meet people who expect other allergens to be clearly listed.  Unfortunately, many other common allergens can still be “hidden” in obscure language.  If your allergen is not one of the top 8, you need to be prepared to read labels that use other words for your allergen.

We have also seen people not understand what the top 8 actually are.  For example, the law covers Crustacean Shellfish.  Not all types of shellfish are crustacean shellfish.  FALCPA does not cover mollusks like clams and scallops.  Yes they are shellfish, but they are not Crustacean Shellfish.   FARE’s  Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act covers this well.

Confusion on HOW the foods must be listed

Personally, I wish all foods had flashing neon signs that listed all included top 8 allergens.  Since that is not actually possible, FALCPA does have requirements for how allergens should be listed.  However, there is more than one way a company can list allergens and be in compliance with FALCPA.  Unfortunately, many people think there is only one correct way.  It is important to understand that not all labels will list allergens the exact same way.  We again refer you to FARE and their page Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act for more information.

The takeaway from this blog

The Cat in the Hat is much easier and more fun to read than your average food label.  But, reading labels correctly is a life-saving skill. This means we need to read the label every time.  Dr Seuss never said anything about reading labels.  But if he did it might sound something like this:  My glasses are missing, these labels are small, though I’m in a hurry, I MUST read them ALL!

Please read Every Label Every Time! If you don’t read it, don’t eat it!

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