As much as 90 percent of all allergic responses to food are caused by only eight foods. The most common food allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.
Each one, of course, has its own challenges, and for each person, there is an individual level of tolerance. Luckily, most children will outgrow their food allergies. Milk, eggs, and wheat tend to be the ones that go away with age. However, adults can develop food allergies as well.
In any case, these “big eight” should be clearly labeled with an allergy warning on all packaged foods made in the United States. Once you have identified a food allergy, checking labels should become second nature. As you become accustomed to checking labels, don’t forget to check non-food labels as well. Shampoos and soaps often contain food triggers which, while not ingested, can still create a reaction. Beware of products made outside of the U.S. where the same labeling requirements are not in place.
Milk and Its Peculiarities
Milk is the most common food allergy. About 80 percent of children will outgrow this particular allergy. Milk and milk products can be found in some unusual places: deli meats, “non-dairy” creamer, skin and hair products, canned tuna and craft paints.
Where Peanuts Hide
Peanut butter can be used as a thickener for things like chili and can even be used as a natural “glue” for egg rolls. Check for peanut oil in skin products. Birdseed often contains peanut filler. Nutshells of all types can be found in bean bag fillers or similar stuffed items like hacky sacks.
Shellfish is the most common allergy for adults, often developing later in life. Shellfish, the meat and/or the shells, can be found in vitamins, pet and fish food, and fertilizer. It helps to know if you are allergic to crustaceans, mollusks or both.
Eggs, Fish, Soy and Wheat Hiding Places
Ask your doctor about any egg content in vaccinations. Watch out for egg substitutes that still contain egg. Restaurants may not clean their pans or grills between cooking fish and other proteins. Watch out for cross-contamination. Kosher gelatin is made from fish bones. Soy is everywhere – even in gasoline. Watch out for the oil in hair and skin products, toys stuffed with soybeans, and vitamins, such as vitamin E, using soy as well. Wheat is used as a filler in processed meats. Non-food items like Play-Doh, lotions, and glue will often use wheat or wheat products.