LIFESTYLE NEWS - Recently passed food labelling regulations will make consumers more informed about their food choices, particularly when it comes to allergens such as soya, dairy, nuts, eggs and shellfish, however allergens may be lurking in labels under unfamiliar names.
Mariska Fouche, Public Affairs Manager for Pharma Dynamics welcomes the move, but warns consumers to be on the lookout for hidden allergens that might not be as obvious.
"The new labelling regulations will certainly allow consumers to identify common allergens, if they know what to look for."
Fouche offers the following advice to keep you safe while shopping for food:
1. Read the entire label and if you're not sure of every ingredient that went into a cooked item, don't eat it!
2. Read each ingredient on the label, paying special attention to boldfaced items, parentheses and items listed below the complete list of ingredients.
3. For processed foods (anything that is made from more than one ingredient), check the label for a warning that the food was made in a factory where your allergens may have been used on the same manufacturing lines.
4. The food industry often uses alternative names for common allergens, which the average consumer might not be aware of. The higher up the list of ingredients they are found, the greater proportion they form of the food product or meal. Learn the lists of ingredients that might specify hidden food allergens indicated in the table below.
Food allergens and their alternative names
Albumin, binder, coagulant, emulsifier, globulin, lecithin, livetin, lysozyme, ovalbumin, ovomucin, ovomucoid, ovovittelin, vitellin.
Artificial butter flavour, butter, butter fat, buttermilk solids, caramel colour, caramel flavouring, casein, caseinate, cheese, cream curds, delactosed whey, dry milk solids, high protein flavour, lactalbumin, lactalbumin phosphate, lactose, milk derivative, milk solids, natural flavouring, rennet casein, sour cream, sour milk solids, whey, whey powder, whey protein concentrate.
Bulking agent, emulsifier, hydrolysed vegetable protein, lecithin, miso, MSG, monosodium glutamate, protein, protein extended, stabiliser, textured vegetable protein, thickener, tofu, vegetable broth, vegetable gum, vegetable starch.
All-purpose flour, flour, bulgur, bran, cornstarch, couscous, durum wheat / flour, farina, gelatinised starch, gluten, graham flour, kamut, malt, miller's bran, modified starch, semolina, spelt, starch, vegetable gum, vegetable starch, white flour
Many processed foods contain additives like preservatives, colourants, sweeteners, stabilisers, flavourants, emulsifiers, curing agents, nutrients and anti-oxidants.
The new legislation states that tartrazine, a colourant added to some green, yellow and orange foods, must be clearly labelled as such (it is also known as E102 or yellow no. 5 on some imported foods), while MSG (monosodium glutamate) must also carry its common name.
Fouche notes that the number of people who suffer from food allergies is on the increase. "International research shows that the prevalence of peanut allergy has nearly doubled over the past decade, and there is a steady increase in the number of people allergic to less 'traditional' foods such as kiwi fruit, sesame seeds and lupin flour, a low GI, high protein and energy flour.
"We are also seeing an alarming rise in the number of children who are allergic to several kinds of foods. Up to 25% of children who suffer from eczema now also suffer from severe food allergies."
For more information on allergies, visit www.allergyexpert.co.za.