Food Allergies and Intolerances

A food intolerance is sometimes confused with or mislabeled as a food allergy. Food intolerances involve the digestive system while food allergies involve the immune system. With a food allergy, even a microscopic amount of the food has the potential to lead to a serious or life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.


8 Major Allergens

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Shellfish
  • Fish
  • Wheat
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Soy



Cross-contact occurs when an allergen is unintentionally transferred from one food to another. Proper cooking does NOT reduce or eliminate the chances of a food allergy reaction. Even a tiny amount of an allergen can cause a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Use utensils, cutting boards and pans that have been thoroughly washed with soap and water and sanitized. Consider using separate utensils and dishes for making and serving safe foods. If you are making several foods, cook the allergy-safe foods first. Wash your hands with soap and water before touching anything else if you have handled a food allergen.


Examples of cross-contact:

  • Peeling cheese off a cheeseburger to make it a hamburger or using the same spatula that flipped a cheeseburger to flip a hamburger.
  • Removing shrimp from a salad or not washing hands after handling shrimp before making the next salad.
  • Wiping off—not properly cleaning—a knife used to spread peanut butter before using it to spread jelly.


Food Allergen Labeling

According to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protect Act (FALCPA) of 2004 the major eight allergens must be declared in simple terms, either in the ingredient list or a separate allergen statement Advisory or precautionary labeling such as “may contain” or “in a facility that also processes” is voluntary.


Allergy Awareness

If you have fish allergy, avoid seafood restaurants. Even if you order a non-fish item off of the menu, cross-contact of fish protein is possible.

Asian cookery often uses fish sauce as a flavoring base; exercise caution when eating this type of cuisine.

The FDA exempts highly refined peanut oil from being labeled as an allergen; Studies show that most allergic individuals can safely eat peanut oil that has been highly refined (not cold pressed, expeller pressed, or extruded peanut oil).

Many experts advise patients allergic to peanuts to avoid tree nuts as well

In October of 2006, the FDA began identifying coconut as a tree nut. Medical literature documents a small number of allergic reactions to coconut; most occurred in people who were not allergic to other tree nuts.

About 2.5 percent of children under three years old are allergic to milk. Nearly all infants who develop an allergy to milk do so in their first year of life. Most children eventually outgrow a milk allergy.


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