There are nearly 15 million Americans who suffer from food allergies. Avoiding food allergies can be a difficult and cumbersome task. There are many loopholes within food products labeling regulations. Hidden allergies within foods only makes things more complex and difficult for customers to keep track of.
Labeling is critical in determining what ingredients that a product has. Without proper information it is difficult for users to make informed decisions. The Food Allergen labeling and consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) went into effect in 2006. The FALCPA requires that all food labels to clearly state and identify the when a food contains any of the most common allergens in the US.
The Most Common allergen’s are: Milk, Eggs, Tree Nuts. Wheat. Fish Shellfish, Peanuts and Soybeans.
When a food contains one of these allergens listed above, it will be listed in the ingredients section. The food must also have an allergy declaration statement that says it “contains eggs, wheat and milk”. This good for people that have these allergies, because its clear to understand, which is 90% of those with food allergies. However not allergens are covered under FALCPA, for example seed and strawberry allergies are not included.
You may see allergens that are not in the top eight allergies included within the ingredients under different names, such as seasoning or natural flavor. In this case it may help to use some common sense if someone is allergic to strawberries it may not be best to drink, strawberry flavored water even though, the water may not have any strawberries listed under “contains strawberries” but it may be within “natural flavors”. If you know someone with food allergies, it may be best inform them about FALCPA.
There are some common areas that allergens may be hiding. It may not always be in food products. Other products such as cosmetics. Body or facial creams and lotions may also have food allergens hidden within in them.
Below we will list some common areas where food allergens can be.
Baked good often contain milk. Other products that often have milk include:
- Chocolate candies
- Creamy soups
- Prep-processed cappuccinos, Iced coffees.
- Lunchmeats and hotdogs
- Artificial butter flavorings
You should always check the label on these products very carefully. If you are ordering any baked goods and you are allergic to milk, it’s a good idea to ask the server if the the item contains milk or butter. The sever may sometimes need to ask the baker or chef, if she or he is unsure it best to avoid that item to be safe.
Eggs are a very popular baking Ingredient. But unfortunately egg can still be found and egg substitutes. Eggs can also be in some not so obvious foods:
- Fried rice
- Ice cream
- Breaded chicken
Same as with milk, its important to check the ingredient list. If you’re at a restaurant ask your server whether that item has eggs in it.
IF you have a soy allergy, its critical to be extremely careful when ordering Asian cuisine. Mainly because, cross-contamination is of particular concern. There can be lesser know risk of soy being vegetable gum or vegetable broth. Fast food restaurants will often sell food items containing soy protein and soy lecithin
Wheat is often within breaded products. Breadcrumbs and cereals are huge red flags, Anyone with wheat allergies should also be equally careful of soy sauces, gravies, oast, thickeners and starches, such as vegetable starch, and gelatinized Starches.
You should ask your doctor if you can eat mollusk. Mollusk will not be shown on FALCPA as they are not required. Shellfish can be present in fish stock and soup and broth based foods. Shellfish may also be in glucosamine and seafood flavorings and seasonings. It’s a good idea to ask you server if the same oil is used to cook shellfish as other foods at the restaurant. If the same oils are used, you should consider eating a menu option that’s not cooked in shellfish contaminated oil.
There are many dishes and food products made with nuts. These can be nut paste, nut extracts, nut oils, pesto dishes and even vegan foods. These foods will often have mixed nuts and tree nuts will be in them. Coconut, although it is not tree nut, many people also have an allergy to coconut. However, it is rare.
There are many foods that can contain peanuts, such as ethnic dishes, African, middle and South American dishes and Asian meals. In some cases, enchiladas may have peanuts in them and egg roles and pad Thai as well.
In cases where you eat peanut-free nut butter, made from sunflower seed butter, you should confirm that the manufacturer did not process other nut with the same equipment. There may be cases where chocolate shows cross-contamination from chocolate containing peanuts or residue from peanuts on the same equipment.
Fish, similar to shellfish can be found and many things that are seafood products, such as pizza, salads, even burgers and in many Asian dishes. Fish sauce is often incorporate along with seasoning. The key factor in fish is the omega-3s any products with it in it is cause for concern. It’s also a good idea check with your doctor to see if you can be a around fish the kitchen. Some people may have a reaction by simply be exposed the steam released cooking.
What you should do
It’s good practice to learn the laws about food labeling because it only covers eight foods. There has been increase incidents with other foods such as sesame, but it is still not included.
If in any case you find yourself exposed to an allergen it is important to know what to and understand the signs:
- chest tightness
- trouble breathing
You should know the risk and be vigilant when eating foods, to ensure you are not taking any unnecessary risk.