Maltodextrin, monosodium glutamate, citric acid—you've probably read those words on the side of your afternoon snack.
For people with allergies, food sensitivities or intolerances, these ingredient lists are vital. In 2012, Health Canada enforced new regulations requiring that food production companies make common allergens explicitly labeled on every box of cookies, crackers or condiments.
However, the task of identifying allergens can be tough when you can't understand anything on the ingredient list, meaning you still don't know what's in your food.
I've had first-hand experience with this particular problem, as I have an intolerance to all things soy. For the purpose of clearly illustrating my point, I will use soy as my example.
Soy protein is a common ingredient used in tons of things that you wouldn't expect, like salad dressings, soups, vegetarian dishes, Asian dishes and more. The reason soy products have become so popular is because soy is a thickening agent, meaning it can be used in any sauces, dressings, gravies or soups to make them creamier without adding fat from dairy.
Those long and confusing ingredients on the side of your bag of Doritos may be made up of soy protein. However, because they aren't explicitly soy, they don't need to be put in bold under the "may contain" section, which is so not legit.
This problem with food allergen labeling is slowly evolving, as new health food products are coming out that are dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free, wheat-free, and soy-free. Some of these combinations aren't ideal (since I'm a big fan of dairy, gluten, nuts, and wheat) but I'll take it.
By making most of my own food, I don't get reactions as often anymore—but I'm not the only one out there facing this problem. When people eat a food product they shouldn't or serve a friend something they shouldn't, you could be creating an awkward and potentially dangerous situation.
The only way to really avoid food allergens is to read the food labels before you take the risk of engaging in unhealthy eating, and only buy foods with ingredients you can pronounce.