For families with food allergies, reading labels is a lifestyle but doctors are warning a change to labeling guidelines could put some people at risk of an allergic reaction.
COVID-19 closed processing plants and affected farms, causing a strain on the food supply chain. In response, the Food and Drug Administration threw them a lifeline, making labeling requirements more relaxed and allowing for some ingredient substitutes.
The eight most common allergens can't be adjusted, but the devil is in the details with other foods and producers don't have to note the change -- for example, it could be switching sunflower oil for canola oil.
"When you eat a new food or a food you haven't had in a long time, you can have a reaction," said Pediatric Allergist and Immunologist Dr. Vivian Hernandez-Trujillo.
She warns the risk increases as schools get food items in bulk, so it's important for families to have an action plan.
"We can't predict when a reaction will happen. Reactions happen and unfortunately, accidents happen. So, be prepared 100% of the time, no matter what."
You can cut down on chances of having an allergic reaction by following these recommendations:
- Dr. Hernandez-Trujillo recommends kids always have EpiPens ready and let teachers, principals, school nurses or any caregivers know about their allergies and action plan
- Stick with food brands you know and trust
- Call food manufacturers directly to ask about ingredient changes
- Check the FDA website frequently for updates, as no expiration date was given with the initial change announcement