Food Allergies, What You Need to Know

August 16, 2011

Allergies seem to be on the rise, here is what you need to know about food allergies

According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, more than 12 million consumers suffer from food allergies. Food allergies are nothing to be ashamed of, and especially for teens who may think it "un-cool" to discuss something this mundane to their friends, it is critical that we raise the level of awareness without attaching a social stigma. The key is communication.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, currently there are no cures for food allergies, and the only successful method to manage these allergies is to avoid foods that contain the causative proteins.

The five things you need to know about food allergies:

1) Over 12 million Americans suffer from food allergies and predictions are that this number is on the rise. A study in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology showed that seafood allergies are more likely to begin in adulthood, and it’s estimated that 6.5 million Americans have the allergy.

2) Eight food groups account for 90 percent of allergic reactions, this includes 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 food additives such as sulfites.

3) There are ways in which a label can state that it has possible allergens. This can be stated as "Contains _________" with the allergen listed in immediate proximity to the ingredient declaration. For example, "Contains soy and milk." Read labels as well for products produced in the same factory as your allergen, consume with care. 

4) Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 included some of the following which help dealing with food allergies: requires that food ingredient statements identify in common language that an ingredient is itself, or is derived from, one of the eight main food allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, fish, Crustacea, eggs, milk, soy, and wheat), or is gluten (from rye, barley, oats, and triticale). Foods that contain a protein of one of these Major Food Allergens will also appear on the label if they are contained in a flavor.

5) Look for "hidden" sources. Be careful of cross-contamination, this can happen in a toaster, griddle, oven, and on plates. Many vitamins and medications can contain allergens in their additives – always check with your doctor and pharmacist to make sure they prescribe those that are safe. Some flavored coffees, teas, and other beverages may contain a cereal protein that contains gluten. Always read ingredient labels.

For eating out, or at a friends or family’s house, check out the Food Allergy Buddy & Celiac BFF card. It’s free and simple to use and will eliminate a lot of confusion when eating out or when others are shopping or preparing food for you. It’s essential in your children's lunch box for school! In a matter of seconds you can check off any foods you would like to avoid in the preparation of your meal and then print out the free card. Click here to get your free Food Allergy Buddy & Celiac BFF card.