Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Flavorings and Spice Are Not Always Nice

Sigh.  I took my daughter shopping with me, the other day, for groceries and she said she wanted to try hot dogs, again.  It had been a long time since she had them, so I went in search of the ones she had in the past.  They were the John Morrell/Rath Black Hawk Beef Hot Dogs.  Their label drew me in...On the front is a blue ribbon that reads, "Food Allergy Recognition*" and next to the explaining asterisk is "Free of the Following Food Allergens: No Milk * No Egg * No Nuts * No Fish * No Soy *No Wheat."

I read the ingredients list, which was as follows: Beef, water, corn syrup, modified food starch, contains 2% or less of salt, flavoring, spices, potassium lactate, dextrose, sodium phosphates, sodium diacetate, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite, extract of paprika.

I was too busy re-reading the "No Milk * No Egg..." part, trying to see which of the Top 8 was not listed.  (I guess they were all listed, with "nuts" meaning peanuts and tree nuts and "fish" meaning fish and shellfish.)  With all of this allergy-friendly reassurance going on, I forgot to pay attention to my nemisis..."flavoring" and his evil sister "spices".  O, how I loathe them.  I cannot believe I let them get past me...

I made my daughter one hot dog, and cut it into pieces for dinner.  She ate them up and said they were yummy.  A few minutes later, she was bending over a little, telling me that her tummy hurt.  She would bend forward like she was getting a sharp pain and she was saying, "I don't know what's wrong, Mommy, I don't know what's going to happen."  She's 3, and she speaks very well, but her phrasing is still sometimes hard to figure out, so I kept asking questions.  She has had gas pains, before, so I wasn't sure what was going on, but she kept grabbing at her stomach.  She also likes to lean over the edge of the table, sometimes, and she said, "maybe I hurt my tummy bending on the table."  A little bit later, she said, "I need to go spit up" and left the table and went to the bathroom.  This was very unlike her.  Typically, her allergic reactions are swift, with projectile-vomiting and no time to make it to the bathroom.  She went into the bathroom and kept telling me that something was wrong with her tummy and that she felt like she might spit up.  I sat with her on the floor, holding her as she kept getting stomach pains.  My husband and I were discussing what it might have been that did it and I said, "she has had the hot dogs before" and he asked, "did they have mustard in them?" and I felt that sadly familiar pain in my own stomach...the pain of making a mistake.  I pictured the label in my mind...flavorings...spices...They often contain mustard/mustard seed!  Our daughter has never been tested for a mustard allergy, but we know she has one.  The first time she had yellow mustard...no problem...The second time...projectile vomiting everywhere.  It was banned after that.

My poor little girl was holding the bathroom trash can, and she was asking me, "Mommy, Mommy, why is my tummy hurting?  What happens when I spit up?  How does it come out?"  I explained that sometimes we eat things and our tummy does not like them and wants them out, so it sends it back up and out of our bodies.  She had that mild panicky look in her eyes and I knew that "I'm going to throw up soon" feeling and I felt so awful for her.  She finally threw up and looked up at me and said, "My tummy did it!  It got it out!"  I was saying, "Oh my baby, my poor sweet baby, I'm so sorry," and she said, "No, Mommy, it's OK, I feel better, now!" and she smiled at me.  Once again, she completely amazed me in the way she handled it.  We got her cleaned up and she went off to play, like nothing had happened.  We were watching her closely, of course, because you never know if a reaction will worsen.  I gave her a dose of Benadryl and some of her hemp milk and she took it like a champ.  She played happily the rest of the evening and was in the best mood.  She didn't have any further reaction, thank goodness!

I, however, was disappointed in myself for having made such a mistake.  I wrote to the company to see if their "flavoring and spices" did, indeed, contain mustard, or maybe even sesame.  This was their reply:
"Thank you for contacting us at John Morrell Food Group regarding our Beef Franks.  It is always a pleasure to hear from a customer who will take the time and interest to contact us.
 John Morrell Food Group abides by all requirements of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA). The flavorings listed in the ingredient text for this product will contain mustard, sesame is not an issue. " 
*Punch in the gut* Yes, I did, in fact, give my poor sweet girl mustard.  The email upset me even more, because I tried, and failed, to complete a petition to have FALCPA extended to include mustard and sesame, for just this reason.  I should know better!  However, I'm going to, as usual, try to do as I always tell others and not beat myself up, AGAIN, but to learn and move forward.

Perhaps I can start over and try, again, to see if the FDA will extend FALCPA to include things like corn, sesame and mustard, or anything that hides under "flavorings" and "spice".  We need transparent labeling across-the-board.  There is no reason why we should not be told what is in our food!


  1. My daughter has celiac and issues with other foods. For a long time I didn't trust anything with any kind of 'spices' and also learned along the way that 'natural flavors' aren't always that different from 'artificial flavors'. It just breaks my heart how cool our kids can be about this stuff. I have two but the one that throws up from food reactions is also three, and she just copes, it amazes me. I have met a lot of moms that have problems with hot dogs and lunch meats in general. We have tried a certain "gluten and casein free" brand several times and it is no good for her. They insist there are no issues b/c they run the non wheat stuff in the morning and then clean the equipment... but it doesn't work for her. Prepared meats just seem so very problematic in more than one way and I've wondered if there is a particular spice that gets her or if its just wheat contamination.

  2. Yes, the only "deli" meat we have had good success with is from Hormel Naturals. My daughter loves their Honey Ham and Turkey. Other than that, I'm not sure if anything else is safe enough.

  3. You just gotta not give her any processed food at all. Our kid has a bunch of food reactions and the only food we let her eat is stuff we make ourselves. But even we trip up. We were giving her soy sauce for a long time, before something I read made me look at the ingredients, and I found out it had wheat in it. We never thought soy sauce would have wheat.

  4. I can totally sympathize. The flavoring and spice "ingredients".....it kills me...they are not ingredients. I just don't get it. When is spice an ingredient? Seriously? That was one of those shockingly unpleasant things I discovered when learning to deal with multiple food allergies. We avoid those two things like the plague because who knows what really lurks behind the names? Sorry your little girl had to go through that. I understand, I've let things slip by. Allergies are hard. Don't beat yourself too much about it. You're a wonderful mom!