When I bought Kashi GoLean Crunch cereal last weekend, I also bought a box of Kashi granola bars. Like their cereals, Kashi’s granola bars have impressive nutrition stats as compared to most of their competitors. But also like their cereals, Kashi’s granola bars are tasteless. I tried one of the trail-mix granola bars this morning, and though it’s not quite as hard to eat as their GoLean Crunch, it was equally bland, but with an extra something: an allergic reaction! I’m always a little careful with granola products because they often have sunflower seeds in them, but I missed this one. There are three types of bars in the box, each with dozens of ingredients, and only the trail-mix bars have them.
I wish sunflower seeds were one of the allergens required by the FDA to be listed in bold type; only milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat are required. They say these account for 90% of food allergies, so I feel kind of special to be in the uncovered 10%. I guess if manufacturers listed every possible allergen, the list would be almost as long as the ingredient list itself, which would defeat the purpose. But still, I’ve gotta think sunflower seeds (and maybe other seeds) are a reasonably common allergen. And it’s hard to spot those suckers when they’re in small type, buried deep in the third extensive list of ingredients.
If I were deathly allergic to sunflower seeds, I’m sure I’d be a lot more careful reading ingredients. On the other hand, maybe I am deathly allergic and just don’t know it. I always have such a strong and unpleasant reaction (swelling and painful lips, tongue, and throat) that I take an antihistamine immediately.
I wasn’t always allergic to sunflower seeds, or at least not to this degree. I occasionally had bits of sunflower seeds as a child, and I remember my mouth getting itchy, but not to a degree that made me avoid them. But as an adult, I once ate some sunflower seeds my grandma had sent up from Texas, and I had such a severe reaction that I immediately swigged some liquid Dimetapp (the tasty grape stuff!) that my mom had at her house, then I warned her what was happening in case I got where I couldn’t talk. Yeah, it was that bad! Really took me by surprise.
At the time, I thought that was just some kind of anomaly, but since then, I’ve only eaten sunflower seeds a few times—only once on purpose—and each time, my reaction has been increasingly severe. The one time I deliberately tried eating sunflowers, I didn’t even eat them. I just bit one, and my lip and the tip of my tongue instantly swelled up where the seed had touched them. Since then, my accidental exposure has been limited to eating things I didn’t buy. Twice I got snagged eating store samples. One was a granola bar (obvious peril; should have checked the box). The other was chicken salad (never saw that one coming . . . literally . . . the seed bits were too small to even identify).
I guess I should ratchet up my radar for sunflower seeds, though I wish manufacturers would voluntarily identify seeds more prominently in their ingredients (Wikipedia says that seed allergies seem to be increasing).
I hope Costco will take these back. It’s a big box!