Happy Food Allergy Awareness Week!

As it happens, food allergies are a big health concern. I’ve got a whole handful of them (apples, peaches, almonds, carrots, and oh, about eight more), and count myself lucky because I’ve so far avoided life-threatening reactions. What’s worse, by most accounts food allergies are growing more prevalent. (One study demonstrated that the prevalence of peanut allergies in US children doubled in the five years between 1997 and 2002.)

The good news is that a Sightline-style solution is in the works to protect allergy sufferers with the tools of good information and clear language.

On January 1 of this year, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act went into effect, requiring that product labels clearly mark the presence of the eight most common allergy-causing foods in simple terms that even a child could decipher.

So, if your cookies contain milk, the label had better say “milk” now, even if the milk is in the form of whey. And if there’s lecithin from soy in your breakfast cereal, the ingredient list must clearly include the word “soy.” 

It’s a simple idea, but it will go a long way toward protecting people with food allergies. It  might even save lives. Similar solutions to “reveal what’s hidden” including requiring industries to make public the amounts of pollutants they emit each year; and using labels to advertise what’s sustainable, such as FSC certification for wood. It’s heartening to see another example of giving folks the information they need to make healthy choices.

(For more examples, see the “Reveal What’s Hidden”  chapter in This Place on Earth 2001.