DHA in Yogurt and Food Labeling

My kids are big yogurt consumers. Yogurt is one of those things that wears many hats in my house: it's breakfast, it's lunch, it's a snack, it's a treat, it's a crucial ingredient in many recipes. I'm very particular about the yogurt that I buy and I am willing to cut corners elsewhere to make sure that the dairy that my family consumes is organic. There are several companies that I support in this industry. I would prefer to buy plain yogurt and have my kids add fruit and honey (which they enjoy doing at times), rather than buying the already flavored yogurts but life doesn't always work this way and I have to roll with the punches. So yesterday as I browsed the dairy aisle with my son, I told him to choose whichever yogurt he wanted. 

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The yogurt he chose was raspberry and pear flavored and I saw on the packaging that there was what looked like oats next to the images of the fruit. I guess that's what got me to read the ingredients – and I'm so happy that I did! This yogurt contains anchovy oil and sardine oil as a source of DHA! I've discussed omega-3 fatty acids before but frankly I never expected to find fish in my child's yogurt. I understand that we live in a culture where parents want their children's food products boosted with vitamins. I also understand the benefits of DHA and that fish oil is considered to be the best source. But fish is one of the top 8 most common allergies in this country. So why wasn't this called out on the label, as in "Contains: Fish"? Well, it doesn't have to be, as long as the items are clearly listed in the ingredient list. Here's what the FDA says about it: 

How Major Food Allergens Are Listed

The law requires that food labels identify the food source names of all major food allergens used to make the food. This requirement is met if the common or usual name of an ingredient (e.g., buttermilk) that is a major food allergen already identifies that allergen's food source name (i.e., milk).  Otherwise, the allergen's food source name must be declared at least once on the food label in one of two ways.

The name of the food source of a major food allergen must appear:

  1. In parentheses following the name of the ingredient.
    Examples: "lecithin (soy)," "flour (wheat)," and "whey (milk)"

– OR –

  1. Immediately after or next to the list of ingredients in a "contains" statement.
    Example: "Contains Wheat, Milk, and Soy."

Here's what the Mayo Clinic has to say about understanding food labels: 

  • What foods are labeled? Domestic or imported packaged food is required to have a label that lists whether the product contains one of the top eight allergens.
  • What allergy information is included on the label? The label lists the type of allergen — for example, the type of tree nut (almond, walnut) or the type of crustacean shellfish (crab, shrimp) — as well as any ingredient that contains a protein from the eight major food allergens. The labels also include any allergens found in flavorings, colorings or other additives.
  • What foods aren't labeled? Fresh produce, fresh meat and certain highly refined oils don't require listing on labels.

All this takes me back to something that I think is useful for both allergic and non allergic families: read the label. Besides being hyper-vigilant about allergens, it's important to be aware of what's actually in the food you're eating and feeding to your family.