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Labeling foods isn't enough page 2
New legislation is merely a good start in the real world of food allergies

RICHARD AMRHINE
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Date published: 1/16/2005

By RICHARD AMRHINE

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Spokespersons for some major manufacturers have said that they would have to clean their machinery between batches to avoid cross-contamination, which would be costly and time-consuming. Well, if that's what it takes, start cleaning.

Maybe the answer, for peanut or tree nut contamination, is nut-free plants. Big companies such as Keebler and Nabisco should be able to come up with solutions. Manufacturers respond to fads like low-carb diets in the blink of an eye. But they've acted glacially on food-allergen issues, which aren't going away.

Through our research over the years, done mostly by my wife, we've learned that exposure to traces of allergens such as peanut may not cause an immediate reaction in a peanut-allergic person. Repeated trace exposure, however, could some day bring on anaphylaxis--a sudden, potentially fatal, systemic reaction that could involve the skin, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, or cardiovascular system.

For that eventuality, my daughter at all times either carries or has quick access to her EpiPen, an epinephrine injector designed to treat reaction symptoms until emergency medical help is available.

After living with the threat of a peanut-induced allergic reaction for the best part of my daughter's 8 years, we've grown to appreciate companies that take the issue to heart. We're always on the lookout in the grocery store for new foods she can try, particularly individually wrapped treats that can be kept at school. She understands the risk of sharing homemade birthday cupcakes that classmates bring in.

At the store a few months ago I picked up a box of Moon Pies, of all things, flipped it over, and found the statement: "Our company DOES NOT manufacture any items with peanuts, tree nuts, eggs or milk."

Other shoppers in the aisle were startled by my "Woo-hoo!" as I stood there, fist in the air. I e-mailed a thank-you note to the Chattanooga, Tenn., company.

Of course we want to know that something is risky, but it is more helpful to know that something is safe.

Restaurants pose a special challenge to anyone who is food-allergic. The new legislation includes a requirement that the government pursue allergen-free preparation guidelines for food service establishments. But it's hard to envision a time when visiting a restaurant won't raise red flags. We don't eat out very often.


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