The Oddnivore, my husband and I were in Kroger the other day to buy some groceries–boring ordinary task–intending also to purchase some snacks for the Oddnivore. Kroger has a pretty decent selection of alternative products in its natural foods section, and it’s the grocery store that’s closest to our home, so we usually save time and fuss by doing our shopping there. I perused the shelves while Dad took the Oddnivore to the bathroom, scanning the packaged snacks for something new or interesting to send to daycare.
Selecting snacks for the Oddnivore is an exercise in maintaining an almost irrational optimism. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve grabbed a promising-for-Oddnivore-eatability item from the shelf at the store, only to have to stuff it back on the shelf again after reading the ingredient list.
But I don’t blame products for including wheat if they want to include wheat, dairy if they want to include dairy. We leave those cheesy, wheaty products to themselves–there are plenty of alternative products that don’t include major allergens. But I do take issue with those alternative products that intentionally omit allergenic ingredients but do not augment their manufacturing practices in any way. So many times I have found products with an Oddnivore-acceptable ingredient list that I have had to throw down in disgust because the manufacturer makes said allergen-free product in a factory that also processes peanuts. Or dairy. Or wheat. Or a combination of these and others.
I have to conclude that for most manufacturers, alternative food products are just fad-esque supplements to the hip alterna-eating world many take on electively. These manufacturers aren’t in this game for the children and adults who suffer from food allergies, they’re here to diversify and turn profits.
I can’t blame businesses for acting like businesses. But as someone who wants to (at least somewhat) rely on mass food culture to ease the task of feeding her child, these business choices are distressing.
Thankfully, some conscientious companies exist. The Oddnivore’s favorite, Enjoy Life Foods, deliberately avoids the eight most common allergens (wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, soy, fish, shellfish) both IN their foods and IN their factories. And their website is packed with info and resources about food allergies and intolerances. The company’s outward-facing orientation is inspiring, and for a mother like me, it’s a huge relief. I don’t even have to think when I want to buy an Enjoy Life product. I just grab it and run to the checkout. Win-win, companies. Take the note.