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What you don't know could actually hurt you

If you live with a severe food allergy, you may carry epinephrine at all times and meticulously scrutinize your food. When you go to a restaurant, you may have to ask numerous questions regarding the preparation of your food. In fact, you may only frequent certain Minneapolis restaurants that you know can accommodate your dietary needs.

When you purchase food at a grocery store, you study labels in order to make sure that the ingredient you are allergic to isn't in a particular product. You know from experience that the Food and Drug Administration requires food manufacturers to list common potential allergens.

The 'Big Eight'

When it comes to declaring allergens on food labels, the FDA requires that the following eight be listed:

  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans
  • Milk
  • Fish
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat
  • Shellfish

Some people may avoid these foods due to minor, but annoying, irritations from these products, but in your case, your life could be in jeopardy even from a minute amount. You rely on food manufacturers to diligently list any of the above common allergens. What happens if they don't?

Recalls for undeclared allergens

It seems as though more people discover they have an allergy to one of the above foods each year. Millions of people, including children, risk adverse reactions, including anaphylactic shock (a life threatening allergic reaction), from everyday foods. In more and more cases, the risk comes from foods that manufacturers fail to properly label.

In 2016 alone, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that of the 122 food recalls it oversaw during that year, 34 of them involved undeclared allergens, which means that the manufacturer failed to put a warning on the label. In that year, only 27 of the recalls involved E. Coli, Salmonella and Listeria combined. That is an alarming number of potentially deadly mistakes.

Recourse for undeclared allergens

If you, or someone you love, suffer harm due to an undeclared allergen, you typically have rights. You may be able to pursue compensation for the serious or fatal injuries suffered. Those involved in the food manufacturing and distribution business owe you a duty of care to let you know whether a particular food contains an ingredient harmful to your health. If they fail in that duty, they should be held accountable.

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