Your allergy-free supplements and food may contain allergens

A year or so ago I had cause to complain to Trading Standards about a supplement company.

I bought some digestive enzymes and carefully checked the ingredients’ list that it contained none of the foods I am allergic to.

The supplement did help my indigestion problems but my ME symptoms got worse.

When I ran out of the digestive enzymes and bought some more, it occured to me that my worsening ME symptoms may have something to do with the digestive enzymes and so I checked the ingredients’ list again.

I was amazed to discover that the new bottle had a different label to the old bottle.
The old bottle told me it did not contain soya or milk and the new bottle told me it DID contain soya and milk.

I was so angry because I had been so ill for months so I phoned Trading Standards. Then I felt guilty and phoned the supplement company.

I was told that they didn’t mind Trading Standards contacting them at all and that the new labelling had come in because of the new european laws.
The problem was that they buy in the substances freeze-dried and then put their product together and so they were legally entitled to state that they had not added any gluten, milk etc.

The freeze dried process involves spraying the ingredient on to starch.
The starch used is generally maltodextrin, which the man on the phone at the supplement company told me, is corn.
The new label on the bottle of digestive enzymes also said it may contain milk and that aspect was not explained to me because the old bottle said it did not contain milk and the new bottle told me it did.
They felt that they labelled better than most companies.

The man had been so nice to me that I felt terrible about Trading Standards and so called them back.
Trading Standards then got cross with me because he wanted to proceed and said: “Surely you don’t want others to suffer as you have?” I said: “No of-course not that is why I reported them in the first place, but I feel guilty now.” He then went on at me again so in the end I said: “O do what you must, the supplement company didn’t seem too bothered about you coming anyway.”

Then on GMTV, Patrick Holford was extolling the virtues of a milk free diet for someone who had been ill and how she would feel much better.
He recommended digestive enzymes and a picture of a bottle of digestive enzymes appeared on the TV screen.
They were the very ones I had been using and contained milk.

So I telephoned the supplement company again to let them know of their mistake at Patrick Holford’s expense hoping that they would contact Patrick Holford so that he could recommend a different brand for the young lady on her milk-free diet.

I write about this now because I have been ill with a sinus infection and had to have anti-biotics.
After the anti-biotics I was concerned that my ME would get worse because of them, so much to my distrust of probiotics bought some just in case they actually do work. I made sure they didn’t contain any of the allergens.
Sure enough after a few days my ME symptoms began to get worse and worse.
I checked the bottle and saw the words that I hadn’t taken note of before: ‘No added ………. ’
Then I remembered my experiences of before.
The product had been freeze-dried and it did state the starch – maltodextrin. I then looked up maltodextrin on the internet to check that it is just corn as I had been informed by the supplement company I used to use. No, it isn’t. Matodextrin can be wheat starch or any grain or even potato starch.

So be warned, when you read an ingredients’ list you want to be extremely wary of the words: ‘No added … ’ because it may mean that the original source of the food bought in from another company may have milk and wheat but that the supplement company have not added any milk or wheat or allergens themselves.

The company I was using is extremely reputable and known for its quality but I only use them for their fish oils and nothing else now. I will not name and shame because I do believe that most supplement companies work in this way just within the law and what they can get away with.

Because of European Laws if the labelling says: No wheat, soya, gluten, milk then you know that is what it means. It is the words: No ADDED that you want to be wary of.

Maltodextrin can be made from any grain or starch like potato so if you are allergic to wheat or corn or any other starch you should avoid it. It is also a sugar and may have to be avoided by diabetics.

You may have to avoid anything that is freeze dried because of the starch used. Instant coffee granules are freeze dried and things that need to be free-flowing may have a starch in them.

I hope this is helpful and I apologise for not writing about this before. I felt too wicked and guilty at the time because I was feeling so ill and couldn’t make a decision. I feel very concerned now because I had a frightening allergic reaction last night.

I have contacted one of the directors of the supplement company before but she never responded to my email. I will send her this article although the labelling on their bottle of digestive enzymes is quite clear now.

2 thoughts on “Your allergy-free supplements and food may contain allergens

  1. According to Holford Watch, it might not be advisable to place so much faith in the accuracy of Patrick Holford’s research but it is surprising to learn that a similar lack of attention to detail might be present in his supplement recommendations. This is very useful information that I shall pass to other people: I know of several people who have a sensitivity and they have experienced problems with some supplements that had “no added…”

    It is very useful that these new labelling laws have come into effect.

  2. Hi Mary P, thank you for your comments. I agree with you in one respect that it is annoying when individuals you should be able to trust offer anomalies in their work but then I do think it is for the individual to check things out for themselves. I had a quick look at the website you mentioned. While the professional’s advice can be trusted more than a neighbour offering inexperienced advice, it doesn’t mean to say that it is right for everyone. The individual must decide for himself whether the advice suits him, if he disagrees it doesn’t make the professional wrong. Equally no-one can be 100% correct all the time. I don’t always agree with Patrick’s advice or his views but what is good for one may not be good for another which is why most professionals always suggest you seek alternative advice from your GP. With regard to the supplements it is the labelling that I object to and the nutritional companies themselves for not paying closer attention to detail. The labelling laws may be helpful in one respect and extremely ambiguous in another, so I am not so sure that they are that good. All we can do is check things out for ourselves and be vigilant!

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