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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Food Allergens, Don't Risk Your Life On Them

Summer is here soon and we will be running around soaking in the sun going on trips and having parties. These are times that we are in a hurry and may fail to look at food labels and may forget to ask hosts about party foods they are serving. So what happens next is food allergies making all the fun times not so fun times.

So learning about food allergens and allergies make life easier for everyone during the summer and beyond.

While more than 160 foods can cause allergic reactions in people with food allergies, the law identifies the eight most common allergenic foods. These foods account for 90 percent of food allergic reactions, and are the food sources from which many other ingredients are derived.

The eight foods identified by the law are:
  1. Milk
  2. Eggs
  3. Fish (e.g., bass, flounder, cod)
  4. Crustacean shellfish (e.g. crab, lobster, shrimp)
  5. Tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans)
  6. Peanuts
  7. Wheat
  8. Soybeans

These eight foods, and any ingredient that contains protein derived from one or more of them, are designated as "major food allergens" by the law.

How Major Food Allergens Are Listed

The law requires that food labels identify the food source of all major food allergens. Unless the food source of a major food allergen is part of the ingredient's common or usual name (or is already identified in the ingredient list), it must be included in one of two ways.

The name of the food source of a major food allergen must appear:

  1. In parentheses following the name of the ingredient.
    Examples: "lecithin (soy)," "flour (wheat)," and "whey (milk)"

OR

  1. Immediately after or next to the list of ingredients in a "contains" statement.
    Example: "Contains Wheat, Milk, and Soy."

Know the Symptoms

Symptoms of food allergies typically appear from within a few minutes to two hours after a person has eaten the food to which he or she is allergic.

Allergic reactions can include:
  • Hives
  • Flushed skin or rash
  • Tingling or itchy sensation in the mouth
  • Face, tongue, or lip swelling
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Dizziness and/or lightheadedness
  • Swelling of the throat and vocal cords
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

About Other Allergens
Persons may still be allergic to — and have serious reactions to — foods other than the eight foods identified by the law. So, always be sure to read the food label's ingredient list carefully to avoid the food allergens in question.


What to Do If Symptoms Occur

The appearance of symptoms (see Know the Symptoms at right) after eating food may be a sign of a food allergy. The food(s) that caused these symptoms should be avoided, and the affected person, should contact a doctor or health care provider for appropriate testing and evaluation.

  • Persons found to have a food allergy should learn to read labels and avoid the offending foods. They should also learn, in case of accidental ingestion, to recognize the early symptoms of an allergic reaction, and be properly educated on — and armed with — appropriate treatment measures.

  • Persons with a known food allergy who begin experiencing symptoms while, or after, eating a food should initiate treatment immediately, and go to a nearby emergency room if symptoms progress.


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