Food Allergy Basics

February 01, 2012

Food allergies can get confusing and complicated. SupermarketGuru has pulled together some of the most important facts about food allergies. Find out here

Food allergies can get confusing and complicated. Here are the things you need to know about food allergies:

1) More than 11 million Americans suffer from food allergies and predictions are that the incidence of food allergies is on the increase. A recent study in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology showed that seafood allergies are more likely to begin in adulthood, and they estimate 6.5 million Americans have that allergy.

2) 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 food additives such as aspartame or 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.” Or an ingredient that contains one of the Major Food Allergens can contain an asterisk referring the consumer to a statement of explanation. For example, “whey” would be listed as “whey*” and would be followed by “*milk” after the complete ingredient declaration. Ingredients: sugar, chocolate, whey*, coconut, *milk.

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, on plates and even, as we saw last week, from a kiss. 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 which contains gluten. Always read ingredient labels!

One glitch in the new law is that it does not require food companies to list on their labels "gluten"; FDA says that by 2008 they will determine the exact definition.

Eating out can be a nightmare: One of the most awkward and embarrassing aspects of having food allergies is going to a restaurant and communicating which ingredients are problematic. So, SupermarketGuru has developed a simple tool for you to communicate effectively every time – and everywhere - you eat out. It's FREE, it's SIMPLE to use, and you print it out yourself. It’s the Food Allergy Buddy & Celiac BFF Card

In a matter of seconds you can check off any foods you would like to avoid in the preparation of your meal. Then print out as many cards as you like and hand them to your waiter, supermarket counter person or even party host, to make sure that your foods are allergy free.