Food Allergies: Top Tips for the New Year

January 07, 2015

Struggling to navigate a new food allergy or just want some tips on how to re-communicate concerns to those around you in the New Year? Here are some of SG's tips.

According to the Food Allergy Research & Education, more than 15 million Americans have food allergies; so if you are struggling to navigate a new allergen or just want some tips on how to re-communicate concerns to those around you, here are some of SupermarketGuru’s tips.

Eight food groups account for 90 percent of allergic reactions. They include peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc.), fish, shellfish, eggs, milk, soy, and wheat. There are a myriad of other things that can cause allergies for some people, including other foods, even those considered healthy as well as food additives such as sulfites.

Look for "hidden" sources of allergens. Many vitamins and medications (even toothpaste!) can contain allergens in their additives – always check with your doctor and or pharmacist to make sure your medications are right for you. Some flavored coffee, teas and other beverages may contain a cereal protein, which contains gluten. Always read ingredient labels, no matter how straightforward you think a food is.

At the deli counter, most "sectioned and formed" and processed deli meats contain all sorts of additives: corn syrup (corn allergy alert), whey (dairy allergy alert) and modified food starch which can be derived from corn, wheat, potato, rice or tapioca (you get the idea!) to mention few. Always read labels!

Be careful of cross-contamination, this can happen in a toaster, griddle, oven, on plates, or directly from the food preparation that goes on right in front of your eyes at the market. Unfortunately it can come across as excessively picky, or just plain nuts, to request a glove change or to wipe down the counter... but when even trace amounts of an allergen can trigger a reaction, the gloves that made the last guy's sandwich should be changed before making your sandwich and the cutting board and knife cleaned or changed to be free from allergens. Also if sharing a toaster oven, use foil or something to separate the bread from the toaster surface where the other bread is cooked - the best option would be to use an allergy free toaster or separate part of the kitchen.

Last but not least, keep in mind that pre-wrapped gourmet items are just as susceptible to those who are unaware of food allergies and how to clean up to prevent cross contamination. Be sure that those who handle your food are in the know about allergies. And if you are eating at a friends house it’s better to let them know ahead of time, than be stuck hungry or eating something that could jeopardize your health - better yet, see what you can bring.

As food allergies become more common, food service professionals, supermarkets, and restaurants are becoming more well versed in how to handle allergy free customers. But it’s never a bad thing to over communicate your needs. If you are new to food allergies or are having a hard time communicating your allergy when you are out at a restaurant, check out SupermarketGuru’s FREE Food Allergy Buddy card. It will make eating out allergy free a breeze!