Friday, October 03, 2008

Fixing FAAN

On another board, I was asked what my solution is, since I don't think that FAAN is helping. Scratch that, I know that in their good intentions toward the 90% of food related life threatening reactions, they are hurting the rest of us.

This surprises many. Especially the ones who deal with food allergies every day. But it doesn't surprise those of us dealing with corn. Corn is everywhere, it's touted as hypoallergenic, and it doesn't have to be an ingredient in the traditional sense of the word to jump out and attack a sensitive individual. Many sufferers react to food they later find out was wrapped in corn dusted cryovac. The irritated CSRs tell us that these are company standards, federal standards, it's just the way things are. They don't have to tell us that the package has poison in it, just the food. (Sorry, but corn, to many, is poison.)

Maybe the most frustrating thing is that I actually see their point of view. It's just a bit, and of all their customers...just one doesn't matter. The odds are, to them, that one phone call is a fluke anyways. Someone who really doesn't "get" the way things work.

That's why I wish the FAAN were doing things differently.
If I were to design a "better" food labelling program, this is what I'd start:
*Labelling sources for all ingredients where feasible. Vitamins (including excipients), xanthum gum, etc all come from somewhere whether it's petroleum or corn or soy.
*All Customer Service Reps need to be trained minimally in the existence of food allergies and the broad range of reactions. Then they need to be able to access whether or not a product contains any specific ingredients. They can answer yes or no to specific questions without giving away secret recipes. (Asking doctors to call is not acceptable. It seems simple enough, but very few medical personnel have the time or energy to put into researching daily food. Or even meds, for that matter.)
*Source materials for packaging need to be logged as well. There are computer programs to cross reference things, in this day and age it shouldn't be impossible to get a straight answer within 24 hours.
*Allergen and source labeling need to extend to medications. The excipients in different brands of drugs can cause problems and that needs to be addressed.
*Most importantly, education. Any food can cause an adverse reaction. All adverse reactions are undesirable and only an individual can decide for themselves what the acceptable risk is. Therefore, individuals need access to information about their food supply. Period.

I'm not a member of FAAN because only 1 of the several people I've dealt with there have seemed remotely interested in the statistically insignificant allergies. And yet every company I contact seems to send me to FAAN. For the most part, they diplomatically refer me back to the FDA who kindly responds that I may want to contact the FAAN for more info.

I've found that companies are proud to comply with FAAN's top 8 guidelines, and yet get distant and suspicious when they are pressed for more info because those guidelines don't meet my needs. I'm happy with a simple life...but seriously, when apples aren't safe because they're waxed and plain grains of rice are dusted with cornstarch laden vitamins "for the consumers own good" things are getting a bit out of hand, don't you think?

It seems simpler to just disclose. Yeah, there's corn in this. Let me decide, in the end, what kind of risk that means for me.


MizCastle said...

I know this post is really old, but I just discovered your blog. BRILLIANT!!! Bravo! Love it! Have things changed any in the past 3.5 years? I don't have any experience w/ FAAN.

Violets said...

Honestly, I've given up trying to deal with FAAN. They still consider corn to be a rare allergen, and that the problem is with the protein. As far as I know they still encourage people to read labels carefully and talk to their doctor. Which sounds like good advice...but corn isn't always labeled and there are a lot of doctors who don't realize the extent of corn derivatives. Thanks for reading :-)