There are many different foods that can cause an allergic reaction, but 9 foods in particular are responsible for 90% of allergenic reactions and are classified by law as “major food allergens.”
It is important to be aware of what these 8 food allergens are and what dishes they appear in to avoid your customers suffering from a severe allergic reaction. We will be going over these 8 food allergens and where they appear and could be hidden, as well as the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
What is a Food Allergy
A food allergy is when your body’s immune system mistakes a certain food protein as a threat and tries to defend itself. Depending on the person, food allergies can range in severity, and even a small quantity can result in an allergic reaction.
Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction
Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Usually symptoms include:
- Flushing and redness
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness and fainting
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
Severe cases can result in anaphylactic shock, where there is intense swelling of the throat and difficulty breathing and they may become unconscious. This can be fatal.
That is why it is crucial to understand food allergies and be aware of what the most common food allergens are and how to spot them.
Peanut allergies are the most common allergy and lasts a lifetime. Even a trace of peanuts can cause a severe allergic reaction.
It is important to check the label for peanuts since they may appear in the places you’d least expect them, such as pesto, baked goods, ethnic food, and vegetarian food. There are also other names for peanuts that may appear on the label, including the following:
- Ground nuts
- Beer nuts
- Monkey nuts
- Arachis oil
Note that many places that make tree nut products will use the same equipment with peanuts. Therefore, people with peanut allergies may choose to avoid tree nuts as well in order to avoid cross-contamination.
Tree nuts allergies tend to be lifelong. They grow above ground on trees and include almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, and pistachios.
Tree nuts may be found in ethnic and vegetarian dishes, desserts, flavored coffees, alcoholic beverages, and oils or sauces.
Peanuts are not tree nuts, but people with tree nut allergies may also react to peanuts.
Milk allergies are one of the most common allergies in children, but most grow out of it, so it’s less common in adults. If a child is allergic to cow’s milk, they most likely are also allergic to other animal milks.
Alternative names for milk that may appear on an ingredients label include:
- Casein (hydrolysate)
- Lactoalbumin (phosphate)
- Lacto Globulin
Watch out for products where milk could be hiding, such as baked goods, salad dressings, peanut butter, mashed potatoes, and processed meat and fish products.
Egg allergies are caused by three proteins found in eggs. Similar to milk allergies, egg allergies are a common allergy for children, but not as common in adults.
There are many other names for eggs that may appear on an ingredients label. These include:
Some products that may contain eggs are mayonnaise, pasta, baked goods, sweets/confectionary (e.g. marshmallows), specialty coffee drinks, and glazes.
Finned fish are another lifelong allergy. People who are allergic to one type of fish may be allergic to others as well, so they tend to avoid fish all together. Finned fish include base, cod, eel, salmon, tuna, trout, and many more.
Be wary of fish oil used and fish sauces used in cooking, since this will also trigger an allergic reaction.
Food allergies to crustaceans & mollusks are very common. Shellfish, along with peanuts and tree nuts, are the most common causes of anaphylactic reactions.
Shellfish allergies are not related to fish allergies. So, if someone is allergic to shellfish, that does not mean that they also have a fish allergy.
Like with fish, shellfish can be hiding in dressings, sauces, and broth, so read the ingredient lists closely.
Wheat is the most commonly used grain in the United States. Most children outgrow their wheat allergy by the age of 3, but there are still some adults who are allergic to wheat.
There are many other grains that people with wheat allergies can consume. Substitutes include rice, rice flour, potato flour, buckwheat, and quinoa.
Soybeans are part of the legume family and in the United States are commonly used to boost protein in processed foods. Soybean allergies are very common in children, but most children will outgrow soy allergies by the age of 10.
Soy appears in sauces, cooking oil, protein substitutes, broths, and cereals.
In January 2023, the FDA added Sesame as the 9th major allergen. 1.6 million people have an allergy to sesame and this is why you need to be aware of this important update.
An allergy to sesame can cause severe reactions including anaphylaxis. Some allergenic sufferers have cross-reactivity between nuts and seeds so that those with allergies to nuts may also react to sesame.
Occasionally allergic reactions to other seeds such as poppy seeds can occur.
Get more information on the 9 most common food allergens as well as how to spot and treat an allergic reaction by taking an allergy awareness course.