Holiday Tips for Food Allergies

November 11, 2010

For the 12 million Americans who have food allergies, the holiday season can sometimes be a challenge.

For the 12 million Americans who have food allergies, the holiday season can sometimes be a challenge. Holiday treats can contain surprise ingredients; and even trace amounts of peanuts or milk can cause severe reactions in some people. However, The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) has provided a list of simple tips to minimize risks without putting a damper on the holiday fun.

Stress to family and friends that food allergies are serious - reactions can be fatal.

Alert holiday party hosts about your food allergy and clarify all ingredients used to prepare foods.

Avoid dishes with sauces or myriad ingredients; these may contain hidden allergens.

Eat before attending special events in case the foods that are served contain allergens.

For party hosts, FAAN encourages sensitivity toward guests with food allergies and suggests using designated pots, pans and utensils to avoid cross contact of foods. It is important to note that it only takes a particle of an allergen to cause a reaction.

Confusing Ingredient Terms 
During the holiday season, FAAN receives numerous phone calls from members who have questions about ingredients. Here are the FAQs:

Nutmeg and mace: Both are obtained from the same tropical tree. The seed of this tree is the source of nutmeg. The outer coating of the seed is ground to make the mace. These ingredients should be safe for a person who is allergic to tree nuts.

Calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate and sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate: Combinations of lactic acid and stearic acid. They are used as dough conditioners, whipping agents and emulsifiers. These ingredients should be safe for a milk-allergic person.

Lactic acid: A commercial food produced either by chemical synthesis or from bacterial fermentation of a carbohydrate such as corn sugar. It is considered safe for a milk-allergic person. However, lactic acid starter culture may contain milk. Patients should contact the manufacturer to find out the safety of this ingredient.

Marzipan: A paste made of ground almonds, sugar and sometimes egg whites. Marzipan is not safe for people who are allergic to almonds or eggs.

Additional holiday and party resources are available on the FAAN Website or by calling 800-929-4040.