Labels reveal the details

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Although the new food-labeling law helps you make safe choices, it might also raise your eyebrows. The law requires food allergens to be identified even in the smallest amounts. As a result, you might notice some surprising ingredients on food labels, such as soy lecithin used as a nonstick agent for baked goods or fish gelatin used in coloring for soup broth.

Food allergen awareness: A refresher

If you have a food allergy, follow these steps to increase your chances of avoiding an allergic reaction:

* Practice prevention. Always know what you're eating and drinking. The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid foods that cause allergy signs and symptoms.

* Know about hidden food allergens. Some food allergens may be well hidden when used as ingredients in certain dishes. This is especially true in restaurants and other social settings, such as church or neighborhood gatherings or homemade foods brought into the workplace.

* Be proactive when dining out. There's more to preventing an allergic reaction than just avoiding food choices based on a restaurant's menu description. You'll need to ask specific questions about ingredients and how each dish is prepared.

* Read and reread. Even though a food product may have been safe the last time you purchased or consumed it, it's possible that the ingredients have changed or the label has been updated. If you have a food allergy, be sure to always read food labels.

* Identify your allergy. Wear a medical alert bracelet that describes your allergy and carry an alert card in your wallet or purse. These items are available over-the-counter at most drugstores and can be purchased on the Internet.

* Prepare to counteract a reaction. Talk with your doctor about whether you should carry an emergency medication in case of an allergic reaction.


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