Dr Oz: How Accurate Are Food Allergy Labels?
Millions of people have decided to give up dairy, go gluten-free, or cut sugar from their diet, which means the accuracy of food labels is now more important than ever. Some food labels will include words like “manufactured in a facility that uses…” or “main contain…” as well as “made on shared equipment that also processes milk products.”
The labels can be confusing, which is why Dr Oz and Jenna Wolfe wanted to break it down to help consumers better understand what they’re buying. Jenna explained that there are so many processed foods out there and one cookie alone can have 25 different ingredients. Plus, we’re all on specially-crafted diets, which encourage us to read food labels and better understand exactly what we’re eating. Not to mention the number of people living with allergies. That’s why it’s more important than ever to know exactly what we’re ingesting.
Dr Oz: Food Allergy Labels Explained
Jenna visited a commercial bakery to find out what those different food labels really mean. Michelle, the owner of Whipped Bakery Boutique, explained that her facility is a gluten- and peanut-free facility, catering to people with special allergy restrictive diets. They attempt to make it very clear what’s in their products, to make it easy for consumers.
If you see a “may contain” label, it means the facility uses those products that are allergens and although they may not be in the product, there’s always a small chance that a tiny bit of it is present. “Made on shared equipment” means exactly that: that the equipment used to make the product may have also been used to make a product that contains that allergen, and cross-contamination is a possibility. For Michelle at Whipped, in between every single thing that’s made, their equipment gets washed, rinsed, and sanitized. They use a bleach and water solution and test strips to make sure the solution will sanitize surfaces and get rid of allergens and pathogens.
“Manufactured in a facility that uses…” is a warning that there is a small chance that allergen may have contaminated the product you’re looking at. Whipped makes sure to label everything very clearly, so there’s no confusion what they have and where. All that being said, Jenna was still able to dig into the best gluten- and dairy-free chocolate chip cookie she’d ever had.
Dr Oz: Food Allergens & The Labeling Act
Nutritionist Dr Tania Elliott explained that the big 8 allergens are covered under the labeling act, which means milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy are included. Approximately 90% of the food allergens we see fall under the big 8 category.
Maggie, a guest on the show, shared that she no longer eats grains, dairy, or sugar. She also has several food allergens so it’s important for her to know exactly what’s in the food she’s eating. If you’re allergic or intolerant to one of those items, does that mean you should avoid it entirely, or is there a certain amount you’re allowed to have before putting your health at risk?
According to Dr Elliot, if you have a slight sensitivity, you should be okay to consume foods that were made in the same facility or with the same equipment as those with your allergen. Lab testing showed that out of 12 foods checked, none had a single trace of any levels of detectable allergens, despite having a “may contain…” label. More than likely, companies include the wording on their labels simply as a safety precaution. However, if you have a severe allergy, you’d much rather be safe than sorry. That’s the same idea food companies are following when labelling their food.
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