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The Big 8 Food Allergens (Part 2)

Written by Courteney

Posted on May 10, 2016 at 12:04 am

About 15 million Americans have food allergies. Over 90% of all food reactions (nearly 30,000 anaphylactic reactions annually) are caused by 8 specific allergens. This group of highly allergic foods has been dubbed “The Big 8” (if you haven’t caught our post on the first 4, check it out). The Big 8 include: peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs and:

  • Fish – People with fish allergies may be sensitive to all or only a couple types of fish. They are often advised to avoid all fish as a preventative measure. Fish allergies can occur at any age and can be life-threatening. Unfortunately, a fish allergy can be extra dangerous because unlike many foods that only cause a reaction upon contact, if fish is cooking and the allergic person breathes in the fumes, they can have a serious or life-threatening reaction. So not only do people with fish allergies have to avoid eating or touching fish, but sometimes must avoid even being around cooking fish or others who are eating it. Fish ingredients are often hidden in strange foods such as worcestershire sauce, caesar salad and dressing or Clamato drink.
  • Crustacean Shellfish – largely consist of shelled seafood such as shrimp, crab, lobster, prawns and crayfish. Mollusks can cause allergic reactions too but aren’t as common as crustaceans. Similarly to fish, crustacean allergies can be caused by inhalation of the cooking shellfish or cross contamination as well as direct contact or ingestion. They are often caused by a protein called tropomyosin that is found in many shellfish. These reactions could be mild, moderate or deadly and may require the person to carry an EpiPen. While food companies must disclose shellfish ingredients, they don’t have to list a warning about mollusk ingredients like oysters, so read the label carefully for keywords. Shellfish ingredients may be present in such foods as surimi, glucosamine and bouillabaisse, to name a few. It is a good idea to let establishments or planes know in advance about your allergy so they can refrain from serving dishes that contain seafood.
  • Wheat – A wheat allergy is different from celiac disease. Celiac is an autoimmune condition in which the small intestine overreacts to gluten proteins causing many unpleasant gastrointestinal and systemic symptoms. A wheat allergy is an IgE response to wheat causing a range of symptoms from hives, itchy eyes, headaches to anaphylactic symptoms. If you have a wheat allergy it is important to know your labels. There are often hidden wheat ingredients to look for include: “flour,” “wheat germ,” “wheat starch,” “bran,” “modified food starch,” “graham flour,” “farina,” “spelt” and “semolina.”
  • Soy – soy allergies afflict people of all ages and are usually caused by an intolerance to certain proteins in soy. It can be mild to life-threatening, often including such symptoms as gastrointestinal, respiratory, topical or anaphylaxis. Soy is found in a wide range of food products and can be difficult to avoid.

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