Are you Playing Food Allergy Roulette?

When I was younger, I had a friend with a shrimp allergy who seemed determined to overcome his food allergies by sheer willpower.  I’m sure you’ve heard of allergic people like this, perhaps you’re one of them.  These are the people who know they have a food allergy but  disregard food labels and maybe even actively try to prove they’re no longer allergic to the food they reacted to as a child.  In any case, my friend stopped his antics after purposefully ingesting shrimp on New Year’s Eve and ended up in the hospital.  This was around the time when everyone in our social group refused to eat with him any longer.  None of us wanted responsibility for his playing Food Allergy Roulette.

I’m sure many of you are thinking this young man was foolish and I don’t disagree with you.  But if you are thinking that he is rare, think again.  Governments everywhere around the world are reviewing food allergy statements on ingredient labels after alarming studies showing that many of the food allergic ignore those warning statements.  These are the manufacturer’s voluntary “may contains…” that we see on pretty much every food label, ours included.

A recent UK survey indicates that only around 50% of British parents that shop for their nut allergic child heed the precautionary “may contain traces of nuts”  warnings on food labels. 20% of those same parents ignore the “may contain nuts” warning on food.  Yet studies conducted a few years ago indicated that roughly one third of chocolates labeled with the “may contain traces of nuts” statement actually contained measurable amounts of nut proteins.

It may be that the majority of foods labeled with precautionary warnings don’t have the protein in them but many do.  Or what seemed fine last time may not be fine this time.  Is it worth the chance?