No More Secret Ingredients

While grocery shopping, I picked up a frozen tube of Louis Rich Ground Turkey Sausage. As I did my scan of the ingredient list, I noticed two of my pet peeves: spices and flavors. What spice? What flavor? What is the point in listing ingredients if all of them are not listed? In irritation, I grabbed my cellphone, and dialed the 800 number listed on the package. It was promptly answered by an efficient sounding female voice, "Kraft Foods."
I told the voice from Kraft Foods, that my son has multiple, severe food allergies, and that I had questions about the ingredients in the Turkey Sausage. She immediately replied that all of the allergens are printed on the label. I explained that the foods required to be listed are only the the eight most common allergens, and that my son has multiple, severe food allergies, not all of which are on the list of the most common allergens. She again replied that all of the allergens are printed on the label.
I took a deep breath.
I repeated again that my son has multiple, severe food allergies. Only four (!) of the foods to which he has an allergy are included in the list of the eight most common allergens, which are required to be shown on the label. He is also allergic to beef and lamb, and would she be so kind as to verify that the mysterious flavors on the ingredient label do not include any beef or lamb ingredients? There was a pause. She said she would check and put me on hold.
While waiting, I fumed about regulations that allow secret ingredients and proprietary formulas. I didn't have long to fume. The voice returned promptly and replied that no, there were no beef or lamb ingredients. Then it finally occurred to me that there are no reporting requirements for cross-contamination, either, and I asked if she could verify that the turkey was not processed on equipment that also processed beef or lamb. She put me back on hold.
This time when she came back, the voice informed me that the equipment did process other meats, but that they had very stringent cleaning requirements. I thanked the voice for her help and hung up.
Ground turkey and turkey sausage are staple items for us. I've purchased both many times, and possibly the only reason I noticed the dreaded flavors today is that I'd managed to go grocery shopping without The Kid in tow. Now I have another fear: beef cross-contamination. How paranoid do I need to be to keep my child safe?
We have already experienced an allergic reaction when I prepared pasta for my son without noticing the warning about shared equipment with milk products. (I don't have an excuse. I just assumed that because it was in my cupboard it was safe. Now I reread every label while I'm cooking.)
My local grocery store has a very nice pamphlet about food allergies, a summary of which would read: "If you have food allergies, don't consume anything prepared in our bakery, deli, etc., because we have no way of preventing cross-contamination. Purchase only prepackaged food and check the label for allergens." Of course, those labels are not completely forthcoming. So I make judgment calls. I don't buy sliced turkey at the deli counter, because it may share a slicer with the cheese. I buy the nasty processed sliced turkey instead. I do buy fresh fish at the seafood counter, despite its proximity to the shellfish.
Do we need to give up ground meat? That would make cooking a whole lot harder. Do I need to get a meat grinder and grind my own turkey? Is there a Kitchen Aid attachment for that? Just the fact that I am seriously asking these questions makes me wonder if I've gone too far, but then I visualize The Kid having another allergic reaction.

Now I worry if I'm paranoid enough. No wonder secret ingredients make me crazy.


Jaime said...

LOL at "spice" and "flavor" - i never read labels that closely!

i just joined the DB this month too, just checking out everyone else's blogs, wanted to say hello :)

Anonymous said...

Thee is a KitchenAid meat grinder attachment. I have no food allergies other than red food color (which is easy enough to avoid) but I have control issues with what goes into my food. I don't like added salts/flavors in my meat, I like to control EXACTLY how much fat there is, and I have a biology degree and have also worked in the food industry and don't trust the 'cleanliness' of pre-ground meats. So I feel alot better doing it myself. Just my 2 cents on the subject.

Mamique said...

I just wanted to say hi! I started my own allergy blog 2 days ago and found your's through someone else's. I love what you've done, and I'll be sure to try some of your recipes.

As for the spices/flavours, yeah, gave my girl crackers with 'flavour' and watched the corners of her mouth and her chin turn red after the first bite. I took them away and tasted one. Yup, BUTTER flavoured! She was fine.

BTW, way to go calling the manufacturer. Maybe I should be more vigilant.

Unknown said...

I second the "way to go" comment re. calling the manufacturer. How the heck can they get away with hiding the ingredients like this? Isn't that illegal?

Anonymous said...

No allergies here, but a thought....I buy many Jennie-O procucts, all made from Turkey. Since Jennie-O is strictly a turkey company, and their ground Turkey is EXCELLENT,(I use the 7% fat) possibly there is less chance for cross conamination there. They just came out with bags of frozen Turkey meatballs as well, sorry, I haven't checked the ingredients!

Alice said...

Hi! I came across your blog on Daring Bakers and I've been reading all the previous entries. I am allergic to eggs, nuts, and shellfish. Anyway, once we bought some microwave popcorn that had ingredients somewhat along the lines of "popcorn, butter, natural and artificial flavors" but then farther down "contains: milk, eggs" um... eggs are natural flavorings now??? why??? *smacks head*

Anonymous said...

It's good to know there are others who's world is consumed with what to feed your child each day! Just wanted to say I loved your little narrative. I have been reading labels for a year and a half now for my son, and am still learning more each day about new things to worry about that may be hidden in the ingredient list! It can be scary. I too just called a manufacturer for the first time a few months ago (for a toddler toothpaste with "flavors") and wasn't real satisfied with my customer service. But the more people that call and bug them, the more their attention may be drawn to this issue!
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