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Allergies Health Center

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Food Allergies: Tips for Eating Out

Whether you're trying to avoid peanuts or dairy products, experts offer strategies for dining safely at restaurants.

Food Allergies: Know What to Avoid continued...

"You really have to be aware of hidden ingredients. Your allergen could be lurking in breading, a salad dressing, baked goods, or sauces, then it might not be obvious when your meal arrives," says Jonathan Field, MD, director of the Allergy and Asthma Clinic at NYU Medical Center and Bellevue Medical Center in New York.

You should also know the other names for your offending foods. Sometimes, Rosenstreich says, products used by chefs -- such as mixes for sauces or dressings -- list ingredients by alternate names. That means if you're going to request that something be left out of a dish, it's vital to know all the terms, including derivatives under which your allergen may be listed.

The FDA considered this step so important it instituted the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act in 2004, which mandated that all food manufacturers clearly label product ingredients as they relate to eight major food allergies by 2006. Before the law, people with a dairy allergy, for instance, may not have realized that the ingredient labeled "casein" was really a protein from milk. Now the product must say "milk."

Still, experts caution this law only pertains to the eight most common food allergens: milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, and regular fish. These are responsible for more than 90% of all U.S. food allergies.

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