Living with Food Allergies
Odds are good that you know someone who suffers from food allergies – possibly a mild aversion to nuts, dairy, eggs, fish or some other food. You may even know someone who suffers from extreme allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis, and must carry an epinephrine injector with them at all times in case of such a reaction.
But if you yourself suffer from food allergies, then you know firsthand the challenges of avoiding one or many kinds of foods, particularly in a society of refined food products that may often include all of the items you are allergic to even in a case where this seems unlikely.
This difficulty is compounded by the ambiguous ingredient listings which are often included on foods, with names such as “natural and artificial flavorings”. As a way of helping consumers to deal with the sometimes unclear ingredient list on food products, Congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, which went into effect on January 1 of 2006.
This law mandates that food manufacturers declare when any one of the eight major allergens (milk, eggs, fish, tree nuts, soy, wheat, peanuts, crustaceans) are present in a food product. As such, if a product that you are examining on the shelf was packaged before January 1, it may not include the full declaration of allergenic substances.
That situation becomes increasingly unlikely as time goes on, however many products now have extremely long shelf lives – there may be product sitting on shelves for some time which was manufactured before the New Year.
When preparing foods if you or someone else in your family (or at an event) suffer from food allergies, be sure to pay close attention to the ingredients in anything that you use, as well as to use clean utensils to prevent the possibility of contamination from a previous usage.
Learn the specific scientific names for allergens, such as casein (allergen in milk)so that you know what to look for when examining labels. Living with food allergies is not easy, but with some effort you can avoid putting yourself or you allergy-suffering loved ones at risk.