We receive hundreds of e-mails from our readers each month asking for help solving their food dilemmas. One question we often receive reads something like this:
We understand first-hand how difficult it is to accommodate multiple allergies: we founded SnackSafely.com back in 2011 because our daughter has allergies to peanuts and eggs, a combination that narrows the list of options significantly.
Add to that lax US allergen labeling regulations and an increasing number of people who test positive for allergens beyond the Top 9 and you have a recipe for frustration.
There are two principal issues consumers face when trying to find foods that are safe for their families:
- If your allergens of concern are amongst the FALCPA Top 9 (peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, soy, wheat, fish, crustacean shellfish, and in 2023, sesame) they must be listed on the label when they are ingredients of the product. But if they’re manufactured on a line shared with those ingredients, it’s entirely up to the manufacturer whether to warn you with a statement like “May contain…” or “Manufactured on equipment that also processes…”. You may be surprised to learn many don’t. (Click here to read why this is so.)
- If you are coping with allergies to foods beyond the Top 9, you’re on even shakier ground because ingredients are often hidden under umbrella terms like “spices” or “natural flavorings”.
Short of calling the company and speaking directly with a knowledgeable customer service representative, there’s no way to know for sure if the product you are considering is safe for your allergen restrictions.
SnackSafely.com works closely with over 180 manufacturers that provide us with detailed, up-to-date allergen processing information in return for listings in our publications. We partner with companies of all sizes ranging from mega-corporations like Mondelez International and Tootsie Roll Industries to small manufacturers that only sell products via the internet.
Joining us and having qualifying products listed is entirely free for manufacturers regardless of their size or whether the company specializes in “Free From” products.
Here is a current list of our Partner Manufacturers:
Using the proprietary platform we developed explicitly for this purpose, manufacturers disclose to us precisely how the 11 allergens we track (the Top 9 plus mustard and gluten) are processed in the facilities and lines where each product is manufactured.
Once the product information has completed our review process, we know which allergens are ingredients of the product, which are processed on the same line or in the same facility, and which are not processed in the facility at all. We also know which allergens each product is explicitly marketed free from and whether the product holds industry-recognized kosher, organic, non-GMO, and gluten-free certifications.
All this is well and good, but wouldn’t be of much value if we didn’t have clear, unambiguous ways of sharing this information with you, the consumer dealing with the same allergen issues we are.
How We Can Help
By leveraging the wealth of information provided by our partner manufacturers, we offer two free resources to help you find foods that work with your family’s allergen restrictions: the Safe Snack Guide and Allergence product screening service.
The Safe Snack Guide
Our family of Safe Snack Guides is a series of catalogs drawn from over 3,000 food products that are free of specific allergens. We offer Peanut & Tree Nut Free, Milk Free, Sesame Free, and Gluten Free editions but you can also customize your own Guide to list products free of any combination of the 11 allergens we track.
Product entries are preceded by a symbol indicating which allergens are excluded followed by codes indicating the certifications they hold. Here’s an example of a line of Top 8 allergen-free products that are certified kosher, gluten-free, and non-GMO:
Best of all, each Guide is interactive: click on any entry to see exactly how that product is manufactured with respect to the 11 allergens we track along with the ingredient list, allergen statements appearing on the label, product description, links to the product website and Amazon, and much more.
That interactive information is provided via the other resource we offer…
Allergence is a service available from any web browser that will help you find products free from one or more allergens.
Once you enter profiles for each family member indicating their tolerance for the allergens we track, we help you surf our database of over 3000 products by providing color-coded feedback indicating whether the product meets the criteria for all your profiles, some of your profiles, or none at all.
Here’s an example of a product containing eggs for a family with two members that have allergen restrictions – Janie, who has an egg allergy, and Joey, who has a peanut allergy:
The page provides you with the critical information necessary to determine whether the product makes sense for your family; in this case, we could decide to purchase the product and keep it in the “Safe for Joey” section of the pantry while warning Janie to avoid it, or we could skip it entirely.
Both Allergence and the Safe Snack Guide detail foods in over 40 categories including salty and savory snacks, breakfast cereals, peanut butter alternatives and spreads, dried fruit, grains, chocolate, candy, baking flour and mixes, frozen foods, granola, trail mixes, nutrition bars, coffee, herbs and spices, and many others (even cosmetics!)
While they may not provide a complete solution for every food allergy family, the Guides and Allergence are resources that can help provide you with options and give you an additional measure of confidence when searching for alternatives.
They can also serve as a starting point for individuals with allergies beyond the Top 9 to help narrow down the list of candidate products to conduct further research on.
Click to learn more and get started: