Did you read Part 1 of Tips on Finding Allergy-Safe foods? (click here if you haven't yet!)
We eat very little packaged foods, not just because it's hard to find allergen-free and 100% gluten-free products... but because it's healthier to eat a whole-food based diet.
The few foods we eat packaged are by companies that we have spoken to on the phone with - sometimes on numerous occasions - to learn about their facility and food processing practices. They do not produce gluten, tree-nuts, etc in their facility.
So, we have literally spent hours on the phone speaking to companies. We do this for all of the products we buy such as: supplements, bodycare, food, etc.
It's important to contact companies, as you have read in part 1, because food labeling is not effective. There are very little regulations regarding what you can and cannot put on a food label. This means that "gluten-free" can be put on a label even if the product contains trace amounts of gluten.
What should I say when I approach companies?
Here are a few ways we start the conversation:
"Hi, I am very intrested in your line of products.. but my daughter has severe allergies to foods like tree-nuts, sesame and flax... we both have celiac disease so that means we can't have gluten. I see that your product ingredients do not contain those, but I would like to inquire about your food manufacturing policies to see if you produce any products in your facility that contain those ingredients."
"Hi, I am interested in your product but I need to ask some questions because we have allergies in the family."
Then you can go on to explain what allergies you have, and ask if their facility is free of these ingredients.
I explain about cross-contamination and how serious of an issue it is. I tell them that we've gotten sick in the past because products contained trace amounts of gluten or our other allergens, so now we always call companies before trying their products.
It's important to let them know how serious the situation is, so that they understand it's important to get the right information.
Never be afraid to ask. Companies should expect inquiries, and if the person you are speaking with on the phone does not have the information you need then ask to speak to someone who does.
Labeling policies is something that definitely needs to improve across the board, but again it's up to us to call companies to make sure products are truly safe!