The Facts About Food Allergies
Asking questions and being informed can help you cope
Read Labels continued...
Yet even with the new law, declaring every ingredient can be a daunting
task. Minute amounts of allergenic substances can be used to make spices, and
some manufacturers who use them may not realize they contain an offending
ingredient. Further, sometimes the entire list of ingredients won't fit on a
particular food label.
When food companies are unsure of potential ingredients, their labels often
indicate that the product "may contain" a certain ingredient.
Companies change formulas, and it is a constant challenge to make sure your
foods are free of allergens. For example, simply changing lecithin to soy
lecithin makes the product unacceptable for anyone with a soybean allergy.
Consumers who are extremely sensitive to a particular item should make it a
practice to contact manufacturers to make sure the offending ingredient is not
contained in products they buy.
Most anyone with food allergies can tell you about their favorite brands
that are free of offending allergens. Specialty food manufacturers understand
what their clients need.
Better Safe Than Sorry
Meals prepared away from home are not routinely labeled with ingredients.
The most frequent reactions to foods occur in a restaurant, or as a result of
food carried out from a restaurant.
When eating out, keep it simple and avoid anything that is unknown. Ask
questions, and consider printing up a card with a list of your allergies for
your waiter to share with the chef.
If you're not certain about an item, it's best to err on the side of caution
and avoid that food. Also keep in mind that highly sensitive people can have
reactions due to cross-contamination from a piece of equipment. For example,
using the same fryer for french fries and seafood could bring a reaction for
someone highly allergic to seafood.
Here are some tips to avoid allergic reactions:
- Avoid salad bars or self-serve buffets.
- Stick to prepackaged foods that are clearly labeled.
- Find support groups, and swap recipes and names of favorite allergen-free
- Let all your friends and family know which foods they should avoid in your
- If you're unsure whether you have an allergy or hypersensitivity, withdraw
the food for two weeks, than reintroduce it to see if you have a reaction.