Allergic Reactions to Certain Foods Can Kill

Allergic Reactions to Certain Foods Can Kill

In my practice of Emergency Medicine, I saw hundreds of patients with food allergies. I know first-hand that allergic reactions to certain foods can kill.

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The FDA states:

  • approximately 2 % of adults and about 5 percent of infants and young children in the United States suffer from food allergies
  • each year, roughly 30,000 individuals require emergency room treatment and 150 individuals die because of allergic reactions to food

Other sources claim up to 8% of people in the United States suffer from food allergies and of these approximately 40% have a history of severe reactions requiring immediate treatment. Get treatment right away because allergic reactions to certain foods can kill.

Most symptoms are minor with hives, runny nose and/or shortness of breath. Some symptoms can be so severe that physicians need to save the patient from the grip of death by intravenous medications, inhaled medications and intravenous fluids.

Egg allergies, usually from egg white protein, affects about one in fifty children.


Cow, goat or sheep milk is often more an intolerance to dairy products such as cheese but can be a protein allergy. Ten percent will have a reaction to beef. Beef contains proteins found in cow’s milk.


Peanut allergies from the bean family may be severe. While peanuts don’t cross react with tree nuts, tree nuts including pecans, pistachios, pine nuts, and walnuts, are also common allergens. Sesame and poppy seeds contain protein oils and can cause an allergic reaction.

Other foods causing allergic reactions include soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, fruits, vegetables, spices, synthetic and natural colors, and chemical additives.

To reduce problems, Congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004.

Labels now identify the source of all ingredients that are derived from the eight most common food allergens.


The top eight allergy foods requiring identification by the law:

peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, dairy, soybeans, fish, shellfish, wheat


In the USA it is considered proper and legally prudent to prevent cross contamination of allergy prone foods and other foods. Several of the safety valves is to use separate prep tables, utensils or cooking oils.


If you are an unfortunate food allergy sufferer, even if your symptoms are mild, next time you eat at a restaurant, scrutinize the menu. Are these allergy prone foods identified? Ask if the kitchen takes any special precautions. Be proactive!

Become a user and search for restaurants that put a high priority on food safety. It’s FREE!


Author: Dr. Harlan Stueven, MD

Harlan Stueven M.D. is a Board-Certified Emergency physician with sub-specialization in Environmental Toxicology and Board Certification in Medical Toxicology. Starting his career in the USAF, he served as a Flight Surgeon and Environmental Health Consultant Physician where one of his duties was monitoring food safety. In his nearly 40-year practice, he treated a range of medical, surgical and poisoning emergencies. He has been a Medical Director and/or Chairman of several hospital-based Emergency Medicine Departments, served as the President of Emergency and Environmental Medicine consulting group, a physician group Chief Financial Officer and sat on many national, state and local committees. Dr. Stueven founded Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance to improve food safety by increasing awareness of food borne illness and the formation of partnerships within the food industry. He is a consultant to the Wisconsin Retail Food Establishment Grading Work Group; a Co-investigator in a CDC funded “Evaluation of Health Department Restaurant Inspection Programs” project. He has presented at several National, State and Regional conferences on restaurant grading and food safety. He is an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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