Did You Know That Food Packaging Can Contain Allergens?

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You already know that you need to check the foods your child eats to make sure they’re safe from allergens. But it’s not as common knowledge that potential food allergens can also be found in some food packaging, containers and other non-edible products.

We don’t share this important information to make you afraid of everything you expose your child to, but rather to help you be aware of a specific danger to your child. With this information, you can be prepared regarding non-food items to stay away from.

What to Look Out For

A range of disposable products are now being made with food-based ingredients. While the following list is not exhaustive, this trend has been seen with:

  • Disposable plates and bowls

  • ·Disposable bags

  • Disposable utensils

  • Wrappers

  • Straws

  • Containers

  • Hand wipes

  • Diapers

Unfortunately, many of these food-based items are made with ingredients associated with food allergies. These include:

  • Wheat

  • Casein, a milk protein

  • Corn

  • Oats

  • Soy

Why Has Allergen-Based Packaging Become a Thing?

It might seem like the world’s against you sometimes in your quest for an allergen-safe environment for yourself and your family. But there’s a purpose to the packaging that now contains certain ingredients your child may be allergic to, which is that it’s providing an eco-friendly alternative to the normal paper and plastic throwaway items. These food-based disposable items are biodegradable and compostable, unlike their plastic and treated paper counterparts.

You’ve probably heard about the effort to reduce plastic waste by cutting out plastic straws, and this is just one of the examples of disposable products people are trying to replace with more earth-friendly options. While this is a positive step for the environment and the future of our planet, it comes with consequences to certain communities, including those with food allergies.

What Can Be Done?

Unfortunately, it’s not a requirement for companies to list the ingredients contained within their biodegradable products. Hopefully, the companies that label their foods free of certain allergens will take steps to make sure their packaging is also free of allergens. But since these products are becoming more widespread and even being used in food service businesses, it might not always be clear.

There is a need for labeling standards on these items. In the meantime, you can take certain steps to be safer:

  • Look for identifying information, such as labeling that the packaging, plates or containers are eco-friendly, sustainable, compostable, edible or biodegradable.

  • Use reusable containers, straws and other items made of stainless steel, plastic or other allergen-free materials.

  • Ask food service businesses about their straws and other items.

  • Be prepared with an Epi-pen if needed in case your child is accidentally exposed to an allergen.

  • Check labels. Although not required, some brands will list their container ingredients or whether they are free of allergens on the label, so it’s worth checking.

  • Perform research. You can find brands that are careful about allergens. For example, World Centric explains that its wheat products do not show gluten or gliadins during testing.

  • Look for different options, because there are products available made from different types of food. For example, if your child has a milk allergy but not a wheat one, you could choose a biodegradable product made of wheat even though it’s an allergen to other people.

  • Express the concern about allergens to companies using biodegradable options and spread the word to the public.

Hopefully, labeling will be required on biodegradable disposable items at some point. Until then, it’s best to be aware of this issue so you can take steps to avoid exposure.