Tuesday, August 4, 2015

"Allergy Moms" at the center of a food revolution?

As I've gotten older, I've started paying attention to the quirks of marketing. Ha! No more subtle subliminal selling of my soul to big ______________ (fill in the blank with:   pharma, food, agriculture...), right?

In midst of my ten minutes of half-hearted browsing before purging my "Family Fun" into the recycle bin of broken Pinterest Mommy dreams, it was the series of ads that literally leaped off of the page and into my consciousness. Are these ads suggesting that allergy moms are at the center of a food revolution?

Not so fast... the articles are great, but what do the ads say?

For the pharmaceutical industry, 3 out of 4 ads in Family Fun were related to allergy. I will remind you that this is NOT Allergic Living, where I would expect a high number of ads to relate to allergy. 

Environmental allergies:

Followed by epinephrine autoinjector wars (I might add that I'm happy to see autoinjectors heavily marketed to broad audiences - certainly better awareness for those of us dealing with anaphylactic allergies):


Okay, so that was big pharma. How about big food? Certainly, the usual suspects of various packaged fruit sauces and juices make an appearance, but what else?

Kraft heavily markets their recent removal of artificial colors from their flagship product, Macaroni & Cheese (clearly a demand won by American consumers for less "junk" in our food!):
Cheese with no fake orange, please.

But let's not stop at "better" food for people. We can't forget our pets, too.

The marketing sounds great - with all the correct buzzy healthy sounding words. But let's look at the ingredients, which allergy moms are so well versed in reading...

My question is - why do food manufacturers (regardless of whether for people or pets) go through the effort of disclosing so much only to fall so short by including non-descriptive "natural flavors" as an ingredient? As someone who deals with multiple allergies outside of the "top 8" allergens (such as sesame), I have to assume that the "natural flavor" is an allergen and I won't buy your product. If Kraft can change their ways due to demand, then we must demand better than meaningless terms such as "natural flavors" and "spices." As those who either have or care for individuals with food allergies, we can lead the way in our "demands." Fellow food allergy blogger, Homa Woodrum, has helped immensely with the Center for Science in the Public Interest's push to mandate labeling of sesame, which currently may fall under terms like "natural flavors" and "spices." (Please check out her page for how you can help!). Even if you don't deal with a sesame allergy, all of us helping who deal with food allergies is a small step in the right direction. #15millionstrong

Perhaps the biggest surprise of my perusal of "Family Fun" was this:

The intersection of big food and big agriculture. Yes - this is an ad for Monsanto.

So, yes - food and agriculture industry. Let's start an "even better conversation." How about one where what is in our food is fully disclosed. We in the allergy community can lead the way for all because for us - disclosure of what is in our food is not an option.


  1. It's so refreshing to see this issue discussed openly and also to know I'm not the only mother who discards anything with the words "natural flavors". In Australia you also get the ubiquitous "vegetable oil" - equally useless. My hope is that as people become more food aware (perhaps through necessity) that more food dollars will flow to those companies who are willing to be transparent - encouraging the others to follow suit.

    1. Thank you, Brynn and agreed! I also get irked by "vegetable oil." We deal with corn, soy, peanut allergies (among others), so vegetable oil is annoying! If I knew which vegetable, I could easily say yea or nay.

  2. Amen! Beautifully written. Brains, beauty and the gift of pen. You have it all. I agree, we are powerful and can the lead the way that will support others in their drive to live quality lives. Industry will respond to the consumer--this is their job--to sell things that we want. I'm crazed by the misleading labeling. My son had a minor reaction to Annie's Organic Mac and Cheese..but wait, only the pasta was organic and he reacts to non-organic dairy! I thought I had purchased a 100% organic dairy product. Just the facts would work fine. Thank you for writing this lovely piece. I look forward to more of your posts.

    1. Thanks, Caroline! You are so kind and gracious :). I can't believe the issue with Annie's - I didn't realize that an organic label could mean partially organic? Hope your son was ok! What I don't understand is why the resistance to appropriately label. Some of it I know is "proprietary" as in we don't want to give away what's in our secret sauce. Some of it I'm sure is financial as in - hey, we can use whatever oil is currently the cheapest and get away with labeling as "vegetable oil" so we don't have to redo product labels. I don't know. Some of it, I'm sure is is entangled with the fear of "chemicals" and GMOs on the consumer end. Honestly, I just want the info so I can decide whether something is safe for our situation. I don't want to replicate the "secret sauce," I just want something that is safe so I don't have to call and beg for that info and I don't have to make it myself because quite frankly I never have a day off from cooking :). I'd really love to start figuring out what exactly the barriers are on the manufacturing side of things because then we can all be better advocates for change!

  3. Thank you so much for raising awareness by writing this article. I also try to watch what I eat. It's really important.

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