When to Teach Our Kids the Importance of Reading Food Labels?
More and more kids around the world are being affected by food allergies. We can’t deny that these numbers are growing. In the US alone, it is estimated that 1 out of 10 children are suffering from food allergies and the exact reason for how they develop, is still unknown.
Food allergy is a serious matter because of its severe, life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. It has already taken dozens of lives and if we don’t do something about it or acknowledge how serious it is, this number may multiply.
There’s a silver lining to this condition and that it has made our food allergy parents tough and smart. Why? They do extensive research and acquire more knowledge about their child’s condition. They adapt to these conditions and adjust their whole lives. For example; the way they cook, eat, clean the house, wash their utensils and dishes etc. This also extends to schools, theme parks, and just about everywhere. All of these do not necessarily justify how tough and smart they are – but there’s one thing that we wanted to encourage our moms and dads to do and that is familiarizing our children with reading product or food labels.
We can’t reiterate enough how serious food allergy is and that we should take all the necessary precautions and preparations, including training our kids to make sure food is safe before eating it. Basically causing them to distrust every food, even if they have eaten it previously. That is where product and label reading will come in handy.
When is the right time?
Experts say that kids 10 years of age are full of the ability to learn and are at their peak in cognitive growth. This is the age when they start thinking and sounding like an adult. This is because they start to form their thoughts and opinions from what they’ve previously been told by adults. This could be the right time to teach them about reading food and non-food product labels to watch out for their allergen. This can depend on your child’s learning ability and should be assessed on an individual basis. It is important to make sure that this remains a gradual process.
Can we trust food labels, packaging labels, and non-food product labels?
The answer is it should be trustworthy but since there is a thin line between safe and anaphylaxis prevention, then we choose to not trust the information alone. There are a lot of recalls on products, especially in food products because of undeclared ingredients. Sometimes it can come from the same company that we have trusted before. Most food companies (not all) choose to keep their packaging and labeling identical with minor changes and for untrained eyes like our kids, it can be confusing.
Why should we teach our kids to read food labels?
There are many incidents where a child or even teenager has mistaken the food as safe because of its packaging and we can’t blame them. There are only a handful of food and snacks available for someone with food allergies. We tend to trust these companies so much that we skip checking if some minor changes have been made on labels and ingredients. Training them at a young age to always check and read labels will make a lot of difference. This will make them more cautious and have control over what they eat and to do not trust food without checking or knowing what’s in it.
Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA)
This is the primary federal law governing how allergens are represented on packaged foods sold in the U.S. This federal law was passed on 2004 and took effect on January 2006 requiring food labels to note all allergens in plain language. You can go to FARE’s website for more details, scope, and limitations of this law.
We don’t always have our children with us and we can’t always be around them. Eventually, they become teenagers with their own goals and activities. Educating them to be cautious of what they eat and familiarizing themselves with checking the contents of the food they are buying or trying is a good trait that we can pass on to them. We’re not implying that kids with food allergies can be left by themselves when choosing their food, snacks, or sunscreen. Parents never stop being parents, and what we teach our child can stay with them until they grow old and food safety should be one of those things. Everything can be achieved through training at an age where they are very focussed on acquiring knowledge. This is the perfect time to teach them the correct and safest way of living with their condition.