In my practice of Emergency Medicine I have seen hundreds of patients with food allergies.
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.
Most symptoms, however, 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 seeds 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 it 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!