We have a rather bizarre collection of dietary issues in my house. There are 4 residents, 3 of whom have dietary intolerances – and no two are alike. We do an awful lot of label reading and cooking from scratch, and can’t eat a lot of things others take for granted. When we find a product we can all eat, it is a hallelujah moment.
Sadly, we have to be ultra paranoid. There is, for example, one type of mayonnaise that we can all eat safely, but it’s not as simple as it seems. That type of mayonnaise (Kraft Classic, as it happens) comes in both a glass jar and a squirty bottle. They are both labelled Kraft Classic, with identical looking labels and logos etc. The only difference between the two appears to be the type of container. Recently the one in the glass jar ceased to appear at our local supermarket, so we bought the squirty bottle instead. Fortunately I have a well developed sense of paranoia, and I read the ingredients on both packages.
The one in the glass jar contains no milk. (This is important, as one of us has an extreme sensitivity to milk protein.) The one in the squirty bottle contains milk solids. Same name. Same brand. Same label. Different ingredients. Why would they do that? Are they actually trying to torture those of us with dietary intolerances? Because they are wasting their time – I can categorically state that life with food problems is hard enough already. The torture is built in. There is really no need to go the extra mile and do the old bait and switch.
I searched and searched for an alternative mayonnaise – no lemon, no garlic, and no milk narrows the range of candidates down to none, as far as I can tell. And in desperation I picked up a new squirty bottle to read the ingredients again. No milk. Bought 3 weeks apart, with, again, identical labels, one bottle contains milk solids and one does not – always assuming I can believe the ingredients list.
So now we possess two apparently identical bottles of mayonnaise, one of which is allegedly safe for my daughter, and one which is not. Bear in mind that my daughter (who is 3) is an autocondimenter who loves sauce and can’t have tomato sauce or just about any other kind, so mayonnaise is a staple in our house.
It has become clear to me, thanks to the disappearance of the mayonnaise in the glass jar, that we have to read even more labels now. Once we have found a safe product, we need to keep rereading the label every time we buy it, just in case the manufacturer has decided to arbitrarily switch ingredients on us. And it’s not even as though dairy is a rare intolerance – this must be a problem for many, many people. Common sense doesn’t work, because dairy is hiding everywhere – I have found milk listed as an ingredient in orange juice – not just in the “may contain traces” sense, but an actual deliberate ingredient. (true story!)
I know that many people don’t understand the difficulty of living with food intolerances, but surely the food industry has a responsibility to understand the health implications of their products. If nothing else, they are positively begging to be sued. They try to get around that by labelling everything “may contain traces”, which is a particularly cruel kind of torture when your food choices are incredibly limited to start with, but really, some day they are going to get the labels sued off them. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving industry.