What’s Really in that Fruitcake? Food Allergy Safety During the Holidays

For 15 million Americans with a serious food allergy or food-related medical condition like celiac disease, eating dishes prepared by others can be stressful. Whether dining out, eating at work parties, or celebrating with friends, the lack of understanding around food allergies and conditions by the general public is infuriating. (NO! I can’t just take the bun off the burger.)

Even when allergens are declared by those who mean well, the fear of cross-contact can be a risk not worth taking to anyone with severe peanut or shellfish allergies. Feeling alone and “excluded” because you won’t try the decadent treats at a party is all too common during the holidays. To make the situation worse, there’s also the added guilt of knowing that a friend tried to make something just for you, but he may not understand the necessity of a clean prep area.

Label Your Allergens

Food allergies have become so prevalent that they now affect 1 in 13 children. As you can imagine, the holidays are a scary time for those with life-threatening sensitivities – and even more so when some are embarrassed to speak up and ask what an item contains. To try and decrease avoidable accidents, we want to be there for those needing the extra caution this season at dinner parties, bake swaps, and snack times.

With that in mind, we’ve created a printable food allergen label at ConsumerSafety.org to help list possible allergens in prepared foods. It may not solve the challenges of living with food allergies, but we hope it will help at least some people feel slightly more at ease.

Download the Holiday Allergy Labels PDF

Another all-too-common occurrence lately has been the increase in allergen-related food recalls by brands. Sometimes these recalls are mandatory because of a serious allergen like soy is left off an ingredient list. Other times a brand is just being cautious because peanut residue is detected, or cross-contact may have occurred due to shared facilities or equipment.

Several steps should be taken by brands to help the millions of Americans with food allergies navigate their weekly shopping experience with greater peace of mind. Stricter and more regular testing must be done before products are in consumer’s hands, and labels must be improved and standardized to more clearly state possible contaminants.