While some meals contain allergens as a main ingredient, others may only have trace amounts and may not be obvious. This means you might not recognize a problem until someone has a reaction. Get to know the nine most common food allergens in Canada, and their synonyms, so you can serve safe meals to known allergy sufferers.
Do you have any food allergies? Share your stories and tips for living with allergies with other readers in the comments section below!
Peanut allergies are so serious that some schools ban half of the “PB-and-J” combo from their premises. In your home, wipe down surfaces you or your kids may have touched after eating peanuts or peanut butter to avoid spreading the oils.
Also known as: arachide, beer nuts, ground nuts, nut meats
Possible sources: cakes, cookies, fried foods, Szechwan sauce, vegetarian meat substitutes, cereals
2. Tree nuts
These include almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts (filberts), macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts (pignolias), pistachio nuts and walnuts.
Also known as: anacardium nuts, nut meats, pinon
Possible sources: baked goods, salads, chocolate bars, trail mix, flavoured coffee, Amaretto
3. Sesame seeds
Their size is misleading -- sesame seeds can actually be quite deadly and can send someone who is allergic into anaphylactic shock. Any package listing generic "seeds” is often referring to sesame seeds.
Also known as: tahini, gingelly, til, benne, benniseed
Possible sources: sauces, dressings, dips, adhesive bandages, cosmetics, pet food
Anyone with a milk allergy must stay away from all dairy products, including cheese, yogurt and ice cream. While some products obviously contain milk, it is also used as an ingredient in many recipes, such as in powder form for instant foods.
Also known as: casein, caseinate, calcium, lactoferrin, lactoglobulin, whey, curds
Possible sources: tofu, baked goods, coffee, chocolate, brown sugar, fried foods, seasonings, soup mixes
Luckily, many children who have egg allergies grow out of them by age three, so they can join the rest of us in enjoying rich baked goods like cakes, cookies, muffins and pancakes. If someone you know has an egg allergy, check that any sauce or topping you serve is egg-free, because these are the parts of meals we most often forget to check.
Also known as: ovo, albumin, meringue, vitellin, conalbumin
Possible sources: sauces, baby food, icing, pies, cakes, quiche, pasta (egg noodles)
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6. Seafood (fish, crustaceans and shellfish)
Some people with seafood allergies can eat one variety but not others (crustaceans but not shellfish, for example). In other cases, simply serving fish near an allergic person can be dangerous: smelling vapours or touching infected surfaces has been known to cause reactions.
Also known as: any specific fish, like bass, sole, snapper; crustaceans like crab, shrimp, lobster; shellfish such as clam, scallops, escargot, squid
Possible sources: deli meats, hot dogs, pizza toppings, salad dressings, sauces (marinara or Worcestershire), marshmallows
Soy is an unsuspecting ingredient because it is so versatile. Although it is great for the environment and can be used to make earth-friendly soaps, cosmetics and craft materials, soy is a very common allergen. Before you offer soybean crayons to all your child's friends, check to make sure nobody has an allergy.
Also known as: edamame, kinako, okara, soya, soja, soybean, soyabeans
Possible sources: tofu, chewing gum, hot chocolate, baby formula, baked goods, canned tuna, candy
Anyone trying to cut starches and breads from their diet may wish their body rejected wheat, but this allergy eliminates the opportunity to eat many other foods as well. Even ice cream is a possible source of wheat, so read ingredients carefully.
Also known as: durum, emmer, farina, kamut, seitan, semolina, spelt, wheat bran/flour/germ/starch
Possible sources: breads, baked goods, pasta, cereal, crackers, gravy mixes, croutons, creamed soups, battered foods
Sulphites, a food additive, occur naturally in food and the human body, but are also used to preserve and maintain food colour and shelf life. They are safe for most people to eat, but a growing number of Canadians are developing sulphite sensitivities, which can trigger asthma and symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction. People with sulphite sensitivities tend to avoid almost all packaged food and must wash and dry fresh fruits and vegetables extremely well to eliminate residues.
Also known as: Potassium bisulphate/metabisulphite, sulfur dioxide, sulphurous acid, sulphiting agents, E 220, E 221
Possible sources: packaged foods
More information on the nine most common food allergens is available through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Also check out The Food Allergy Survival Guide by Canadian dietitian Vesanto Melina and American dietitians Jo Stepaniak and Dina Aronson.
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