I must admit, my wife and I were pretty ignorant on the topic of allergen traces until just a few months ago. We assumed that these food label warnings were simply an effort by food manufacturers to cover their legal bases. In our house, what really mattered was what was listed in the actual ingredients.
We didn’t think twice about giving our two allergic children food that “was processed in a facility with,” or “may contain traces of,” peanuts or tree nuts. The fact that there was thankfully never a reaction only confirmed our naïve assumptions.
That’s what our children’s food allergist warned us we were playing. She cited a recent study that a full 9% of products with these warnings actually contained enough traces of the allergic food to cause a significant reaction. I found this same statistic/warning in articles here and here.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
- The specific wording of the warning label does not give any indication as to the risk level of the allergen being present—one type of warning is not any better or worse than another.
- Even two different lots of the exact same productcan have varying allergen levels—just because it was safe today does not mean it will be safe tomorrow.
The bottom line is that allergy consumers should avoid all products with advisory labels if they wish to avoid risk.
It’s not a game worth playing.