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Food Allergy Labeling Not Always Accurate
Date:3/16/2009

A small number of products contain allergens no matter what ingredients are listed, study finds

MONDAY, March 16 (HealthDay News) -- A small number of food products with a "may contain" label actually do contain an allergen, while about 2 percent of foods products without such a claim also contain allergens, new research shows.

But the offending products more often came from smaller companies, noted the authors of a study that is scheduled to be presented Monday at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology's annual meeting, in Washington, D.C.

"We didn't do an exhaustive survey of every product out there, but one thing we did notice is that products that didn't have this labeling but did have detectable proteins came primarily from smaller companies," said study senior author Dr. Scott H. Sicherer, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. "So for what it's worth, we could presume that small companies don't have as much oversight."

Still, Sicherer added, buying certain food products can be a game of roulette for people with allergies.

"If you're a patient with a food allergy, it's probably best to stick with the larger companies," agreed Dr. David Resnick, director of allergy and immunology at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, New York Presbyterian Hospital, in New York City.

Food allergies, which affect about 2 percent of adults and 5 percent of infants and young children in the United States, can range from the merely irritating to the life-threatening.

"Not too many fatalities are reported with egg allergies, but with peanuts, that's where fatalities are more likely to be reported," Resnick stated. "If you're buying food from a smaller company and have a serious allergy like a peanut allergy, you have to be really cautious."

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Prote
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