Seafood Allergies: Spot Problems on Food Labels

Seafood is sometimes tucked away in the ingredient lists of food products and restaurant meals, which can make dining a challenge if you're allergic to it. Always read food labels carefully, and make sure you know what your dish is made from when you eat out.

When you're at the grocery store, you've got one big thing in your favor: Packaged foods are required to state in the ingredients list, or as a separate “contains statement” the presence of milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, or soybeans. If there is no “contains statement,” it is particularly important to carefully check the ingredients list for any allergens of concern.

Look Out for Fishy Words

Here are some phrases to watch for when you're trying to decide if a product is safe for you:

  • Fish or shellfish flavoring
  • Fake seafood (like mock crab meat)

Some people are allergic to only one kind of fish or shellfish, but your doctor may want you to avoid all types if you're at risk for a serious reaction.

Where Seafood Hides

How to Choose Safe Foods

Stick with packaged items. They're a safer bet than things from salad bars, deli counters, and bakeries, which are more likely to accidentally contain traces of your allergy trigger.

Always read the label. It's important even if it's something you buy every week. Food makers sometimes change ingredients, so you need to check to make sure the product is still safe for you.

If you see an ingredient you're not familiar with, be careful. Look it up first. You can also contact the manufacturer if you need more info.

Check carefully before you buy a new version of a product. The ingredient list may be different in a low-fat or reduced-calorie version of an old favorite. The same holds true for containers that are larger or smaller than the original. And ingredients can vary in products sold in different parts of the country. Always read the label closely.

Look at labels on medications and toiletries. Allergy triggers can show up in drugs, cosmetics, shampoos, soaps, and lotions.

Stay away from cooking areas. Fish protein can become airborne in the steam released during cooking.

Work with the restaurant staff. Tell the servers, managers, cooks, or the chef about your seafood allergy. Ask how the dish is prepared, even if it's described on the menu.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on October 29, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network: "Fish," "Shellfish," "How to Read a Label for a Shellfish-Free Diet."

U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "Have Food Allergies? Read the Label."

Kids with Food Allergies: "Grocery Shopping for a Child with Food Allergies."

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Allergicliving.com.

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