Be allergy aware: A quick guide to the most common food allergies
Eight foods are responsible for 90% of food allergic reactions. I've assembled this guide to help you (and your kitchen) be on the lookout for a food allergy.
Milk allergies are caused by an allergy to one of the three proteins contained in milk: casein, whey, or curds. While replacing milk as a beverage is no problem, milk and dairy products including cream, butter, ice cream, yogurt and more, must be avoided to ensure safety. To substitute a milk-based product in cooking, try almond milk, soy milk, or coconut milk. There also are a wide variety of non-dairy substitutes to select from.
Egg allergies are typically found in the very young (most people outgrow egg allergies by age 5). Sufferers must avoid consumption of eggs, even as an ingredient in recipes. Try replacements such as water and gelatin, puree of dried fruit, yeast and warm water, or baking powder and water to substitute for eggs in recipes. These substitutes contain the same coagulating qualities of eggs, without the dangers of allergies.
It has been estimated that 12 million people suffer from peanut allergies. When it comes to a peanut allergy, avoidance is the key. Be sure to double check labels (especially for products that are produced in a facility that uses peanuts) and use of peanut oil. Substitute peanuts in recipes with sunflower seeds, tree nuts, or other seeds.
Tree nuts include almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, coconuts, pistachios and Brazil nuts. Be sure to check labels on salad dressings, in sauces, in honey, and meat free alternatives as they often contain nuts either as main ingredients or in trace amounts.
Fish allergies affect 2.3 percent of Americans. Complete abstinence from fish and seafood products is necessary. Products which may include fish include salad dressings, sauces, bouillon and even barbecue sauce. Worcestershire sauce contains fish, and is often the culprit for instigating a fish allergy. Be certain to inform allergic patients of dishes which contain this sauce.
Shrimp, crab and lobster are most often the culprits of a shellfish allergy. Most shellfish allergies form in adults. Those with shellfish allergies must not only abstain from eating shellfish, but should also avoid being exposed to shellfish by touch or through the air (such as cooking or places where fish is sold open air).
While soy allergies are usually mild, some soy allergies can be serious. Consumption of straight soy is not common, but soy is used as an ingredient in many food products. For this reason, it is important to check labels carefully and identify those which contain soy or soy products. One positive note: soybean oil is safe for most people affected by soy allergy.
Point of note: a wheat allergy is not the same as Celiac. Celiac is an allergy to gluten, a wheat allergy is an allergy to the wheat itself. While avoiding wheat is key, many substitutes are available in the form of rice flours and potato starch flours. Be sure to check labels for hidden use of wheat, just because it’s not bread doesn’t mean it’s not in there. Wheat can be found in many other food products.
Now that you feel more familiar with the most common food allergies, would you be able to identify someone experiencing an allergic reaction to a food? More importantly, would you be able to help?
One of the best ways to serve those with food allergies is to simply empower them with the information. Full menu nutrition information and labeling can give valuable peace of mind to allergy sufferers, the knowledge that comes from being fully informed.
This is just the very tip of the iceberg on the topic so check back next week for my blog titled: “How to Keep Your Customers Out of the ER for Dessert.”………
Betsy Craig / Betsy Craig brings 20 years of food service industry experience to MenuTrinfo, LLC a menu nutritional labeling Company. Her commitment to the betterment of the food industry and her desire to affect the dining public are the driving forces behind her new company Kitchens with Confidence, LLC.