Food allergies can range from mild to severe. There have been cases where severe food allergy causes anaphylactic shock and even death. People with allergies need to be constantly vigilant about what they eat. Parents of children with allergies have to make serious effort to monitor the ingredients of packaged foods, to ensure that the child doesn’t eat foods they are allergic to. It is difficult to control the foods that children eat when they eat at school or daycare.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires food manufacturers to list common allergens on food labels The labels must be in simple terms that adults and older children can understand. The labeling requirements specify that the common allergens are listed, to help identify the guesswork of label reading.
For example, there are many terms that people find confusing. Milk products may be found in foods labeled as non-dairy. If the product contains casein, a milk derived protein, the label must now read “Milk” in parenthesis after the term “Casein”. The label may also simply read “contains milk” This simple approach is especially helpful for children when choosing their own snacks.
Food labels don’t contain every single food allergen, only the most common allergens. Any food can cause an allergic reaction to a person who is sensitive. There are eight foods that account of 90 percent of all documented food allergies. The eight most common allergy causing foods include:
4. Tree nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts)
5. Fish (bass, cod, flounder)
6. Shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp)
The food labeling requirement applys to any domestic or imported food regulated by the FDA. The label lists the type of allergen, as well as any ingredient that contains a protein from the eight major food allergens. The allergens found in flavorings, colorings and additives are also on the labels.
Foods that are not labeled include fresh product, fresh meat and certain oils. Foods that may come into contact with a food allergen during growing, harvesting or manufacturing are exempt from labeling.
The FDA is also working to tighten regulation of the use of the term “Gluten free” Gluten is a protein in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. This protein can cause a serious reaction in people with celiac disease, which is a digestive disorder. People with celiac disease are often unsure of which foods contain gluten. The FDA will issue standards for gluten free products by 2008.
If food allergies are suspected. a visit to the doctor is in order. An allergist can diagnose the causes of allergies with tests. It is important to know what causes allergies in order to avoid the allergens. Some people with allergies can tolerant small quantities of foods they are allergic to. Risks should be discussed with the doctor.
In order to avoid food allergens, people should always know what they are eating and drinking. Be aware of hidden food allergens that may be found in dishes in restaurants and social settings. When dining in a restaurant, diners may have to ask about food ingredients and preparation if there are any questions. Wear a medical alert ID, so emergency personnel are aware of allergies in the event of an accident. Be prepared to counteract a reaction, by carrying medication recommended by the doctor.
Self education and awareness are important steps in preventing allergic reactions to food.
The information in this article is not intended as medical advice. If you have a medical condition, consult a physician.