HomeKnow what’s in your food: A not so simple endeavour

Know what’s in your food: A not so simple endeavour

December 23, 2020

Pauline and her family
Pauline and her family

Pauline O. is a food allergy mom and community advocate from Toronto, ON. She has three children, two of which have multiple food allergies. 

She recalls the terrifying moment when her son, at 5 months, had a severe allergic reaction to the first food she fed him, baby rice cereal which contained milk powder. “A few weeks later his milk allergy was confirmed by an allergist. We were given a prescription for an EpiPen® and told to avoid all dairy and anything that ‘may contain’ dairy and sent on our way with no other information. We were terrified.”

At the beginning of her family’s food allergy journey, Pauline recalls the biggest challenge was grocery shopping and that finding safe foods was “scary.” “I had to retrain myself how to grocery shop. I generally stuck to whole foods and mainly fed my family meat, rice, and steamed vegetables. It was only after many months that I ventured to packaged goods.”

The confusion of cross-contamination

Confused family looking at food products

With the inconsistent use of “may contain” statements, Pauline talks about confusion in truly assessing the risk of cross-contamination. For now, she relies heavily on brands she trusts. “I’ve found that once you can trust certain brands for labelling and having good manufacturing practices, things get easier and I tend to stick to those brands.” Her top tip for others experiencing confusion when reading food labels is “When in doubt, don’t buy the product! Take a photo of the UPC and send an email or call the company. You can easily decide if you can trust the company by their responsiveness.”

Advocating for change 

“Food Allergy Canada’s work behind the scenes is so valuable,” Pauline explained. “People don’t realize that a mighty team works tirelessly with local and federal governments to advocate on important issues like food labelling and food safety in restaurants. It’s because of Food Allergy Canada and their ongoing advocacy work that these issues are getting attention, they are creating positive change in the food allergy space!”

We couldn’t do our advocacy work without the support of our community advocates like Pauline. Her advice for other families looking to make an impact and advocate for food allergy centres around staying in-the-know and supporting Food Allergy Canada. “Start by learning about what Food Allergy Canada is currently working on and consider joining forces with them. There are so many ways to help.”

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