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Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2005 Nov;95(5):426-8.

Impact of ingredient labeling practices on food allergic consumers.

Author information

  • 1Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York, USA. esimons@medscape.com

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Food allergic consumers depend on ingredient labels for allergen avoidance, and the modality of labeling is changing.

OBJECTIVE:

To investigate current responses to food labels so that the impact of future label changes can be anticipated.

METHODS:

Adults who attended Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network conferences completed a survey regarding their experiences with food labels for their family's most severely affected food allergic individual (FAI).

RESULTS:

There were 489 completed surveys (84% participation). Most FAIs were young (41% <4 years of age and 56% 4-18 years of age) and highly atopic (51% had asthma and 69% had atopic dermatitis). Food allergies included the following: peanut, 81%; tree nuts, 53%; milk, 51%; egg, 51%; and soy, 17%. All chocolate products were avoided by 37% of FAIs who were avoiding peanut and 40% who were avoiding tree nuts; 91% of tree nut allergic FAIs avoided all tree nuts. Of FAIs who avoided soy, 41% avoided soybean oil and 38% avoided soy lecithin. Of those who avoided milk, 82% avoided lactose. Allergic reactions were attributed to misunderstanding label terms (16%) and to nonspecific terms (spice, flavor) (22%). Ingredient labels were "always" or "frequently" read before purchase by 99%. Product brand choice was "very much influenced" by the manner of labeling for 86%, and manufacturers were contacted for more information by 86%.

CONCLUSIONS:

Our results suggest that improved product allergen labeling will reduce allergic reactions and simplify allergy management. However, the new labeling may not indicate the form or source of the allergen, and individuals who do not currently avoid foods with minimal or irrelevant protein content, such as soy oil or soy lecithin, may face additional ambiguity and unnecessary dietary restrictions.

PMID:
16312164
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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