Fish in my yogurt and other food labelling mysteries

I recently bought some new Müller brand yogurt, specifically their frütUp variety. It’s plain yogurt on the bottom and a sort of fruit mousse on top, hence the name. Ever since I started working with Tasterie, I’ve been examining my food labels more than I used to, so before I dug into my new yogurt, I took a look at the ingredients. It started out pretty normal: reduced fat milk, strawberries, sugar, water, lemon juice. But then I got to the allergen warning at the bottom. Contains: Milk, Wheat, Tilapia.Muller Frutup Splendid Strawberry

Tilapia? In my yogurt?

It turns out Müller uses gelatin from tilapia to create the airy texture of the fruit mousse. Gelatin isn’t typically made from fish, but Müller uses it to keep their product kosher.

I’m sure yogurt isn’t high on the list of foods most people with fish allergies think they can’t eat, but the Müller example is one of many instances that proves you can’t be too careful about reading food labels.

Thanks to the FDA’s Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA), manufacturers in the United States must clearly label any processed food product that contains one of the top 8 allergens – milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, or soy. The labels must also be in simple English. That means products contain casein or whey must clearly state, “Contains milk.” Products made with lecithin must say “soy.” Additionally, labels must specify the type of tree nut, fish, or shellfish. That’s why my yogurt proudly proclaimed “Tilapia” and not just “fish.”

FALCPA does a great job of helping those with food allergies navigate the grocery shelves, but it isn’t perfect. One major problem is that FALCPA doesn’t account for cross-contamination. Many companies voluntarily label their products if items “may be manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts” or “may contain trace element of wheat, but there are no laws to govern these warnings. There are also no regulations for allergens in hair and beauty products or other non-ingestibles that could still cause reactions.

Allergy labelling in the US still has a few kinks to work out. The most important thing to remember is that we, as consumers, can’t rely entirely on product warnings. We have to read labels carefully and learn more about the ingredients in our food. Be vigilant! Be cautious! Be educated!

What’s the strangest ingredient you’ve found in an odd food product? Share your thougths in the comments!

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