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We Need Better Food Allergy Labeling

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There’s been a lot in the news and on television lately about allergies and food labeling. Having an allergy to milk myself and intolerances to several foods including wheat, gluten and soy, I have to be careful with what I eat and drink. Because of this I rarely eat out, and I often stick to the drinks I know I can have, but it’s very restrictive.

Often when I ask for allergy information in cafés and restaurants, staff either check for me or I’m given a book to check myself. Some of these books are easy to read, and others are mind-boggling to work out. I’ve often found that one time I can find something suitable to eat, but next time the ingredients in the food will have changed, making it unsuitable.  So every time I double-check even familiar things in case the ingredients have been changed. With the recent news that not all cafés and restaurants are giving out current information, it worries me and makes me feel even more restricted because I wonder if I can trust the information I’m getting.

It’s even more restrictive when you have multiple allergies and intolerances as one thing may be wheat-free, but it contains milk. I don’t want to just stick to black coffee all the time and I should have a right to a choice when I eat and drink out. I should be able to feel safe in the knowledge that I’m not going to fall ill.

I’ve grown up with my milk allergy since birth so I’ve gotten to know the hidden allergens, e.g. whey powder and methods of adapting recipes when cooking. But not all restaurants and servers understand that something like whey powder or margarine is a milk product.

It would be so much easier if menus and food products had clear labeling saying, “This product contains ______.” Restaurant staff should be trained on what’s in food and drink products, and allergy books should be easier to read. Hopefully the law will change to make this compulsory and make it easier for people with food allergies to eat and drink safely.

This story originally appeared on Diary of a Zebra.

Originally published: August 12, 2019
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