Brought to you by Foodfacts.com:
In the US alone, approximately 15 million people currently live with a food allergy. Of the 15 million, 6 million are children. Peanut allergies in children alone have tripled between 1997 and 2008; and more children are being diagnosed with life-threatening allergies. These numbers have been drastically increasing over recent decades for reasons which are poorly understood.
There are eight major foods that account for approximately 90% of all food-allergy reactions in the U.S.: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (e.g., walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans), wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. Even the smallest trace of these foods can trigger a reaction for someone with a food allergy. If you don’t understand the biological mechanism, we can help summarize it:
• All foods contain proteins. Proteins are normally the component that trigger an allergic reaction.
• Some proteins are resistant to digestion in the digestive tract.
• When these undigested proteins pass through the body, Immunoglobulin IgE (an allergy related antibody), targets the protein as harmful to alert the immune system of its presence.
• The immune system then triggers a reaction to help rid/destroy the protein, which can range from a mild to severe reaction.
Currently, there is no cure for food allergies. Most people with a food allergy must stick to a lifelong avoidance of food allergens. Also, they must learn the signs and symptoms of reactions before a potentially dangerous situation. Early recognition and management of allergic reactions to foods are critical steps that must be taken to avoid serious health-related complications.
How to avoid potential reactions:
Read Food Labels. Carefully go through all ingredients on the nutrition panel to search for any signs of a potential food allergen. Under the Food Allergen Labeling and consumer Protection Act of 2004, it is required that all nutrition labels list specific sources of ingredients if derived from the major 8 food allergens.
Also, many products are manufactured in one common factory. Most labels will list information pertaining to possible cross-contamination for various foods.
Choose Restaurants Wisely. Many public food establishments cook with the major 8 food allergens on a daily basis. However, there are some restaurants that cater to those with food allergies. Do your research to find an eating spot you find safe. Read reviews, call managers, talk to friends; get the information on the establishment.
Prepare your own foods. Whether you’re going to school, attending a party, or holding a business meeting, bring your own foods. It’s reassuring to have control of the ingredients in the foods you eat. Also, don’t be embarrassed to provide your own snacks, because there are millions of people with food allergies that do the same thing! Many people are very understanding of these circumstances.