If you or a member of your family has a food allergy, you’re used to carefully checking food labels. In the US, the FDA requires food manufacturers to list not just the ingredients, but whether any of the eight most common food allergens are present. These eight — milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat — account for about 90% of all allergic reactions. There are apparently some exceptions to the law, but most foods do carry these labels now.
This labeling is a godsend for anyone dealing with food allergies, as it’s almost impossible for the lay person to know the names of all the subcomponents of a given substance. For example, when my husband Dave was diagnosed with a true milk allergy (not lactose intolerance), I was given a list of over 30 items watch for, including things such as:
- Caseinate (ammonium caseinate, calcium caseinate, magnesium caseinate, potassium caseinate, and sodium caseinate)
- Delactosed or demineralized whey
- Whey and whey protein concentrate
Yes, the law requiring simple labeling is much better! Not only is it helpful for people with food allergies, but it’s also a huge help if you are having someone with food allergies for a visit. When we went to visit Denis and LaDonna on Beagle Knot, for example, this labeling made it so much easier for her to provision items that wouldn’t cause problems for Dave. I just sent her a photo of this type of label and told her to watch for things listing milk.
But what about travel in foreign countries? Do I have to learn a similar list in a foreign language??
The good news is that most countries now have some sort of simple labeling requirement . . . maybe not identical to the US labeling, but sufficient so that you only need to know the primary name of what you are allergic to. Here’s an example from a cookie package I picked up on our recent trip to Mexico:
Gluten (the word is the same in Spanish) is shown as an ingredient, as is soy (soya). For those who are highly allergic, the last two lines specify that the cookies were made in a plant where other products contain milk (leche), eggs (huevo), nuez (nuts), soy (soya) and coconut (coco).
While you still have to carefully read labels, this makes it MUCH easier to cruise with food allergies in countries where you don’t speak the language fluently. It’s still hard to get complete information in restaurants and in places like bakeries where labeling is generally not required, but this is a huge step in the right direction.