Undeclared Food Allergens

The presence of undeclared allergens in food indicates that product labels have failed to list food or proteins derived from one of the eight most common food allergens. These eight allergens include milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster and shrimp), tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts and pecans), peanuts, wheat and soybeans. Food allergy occurs when the body's immune system reacts to otherwise harmless substances in certain foods. An allergic reaction to food usually takes place within minutes to a few hours after exposure to the allergen. Symptoms of food allergy can range from mild to severe and may include rash or hives, itchy skin, nausea and vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, swelling of the eyelids, face, lips, tongue or throat, tingling in the mouth, coughing or wheezing, dizziness, difficulty breathing and loss of consciousness. Consult your physician if you think you have had an allergic reaction to food. If you experience any life-threatening symptoms, seek medical care immediately (call 911).

The eight foods identified by the law are:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish (e.g., bass, flounder, cod)
  • Crustacean shellfish (e.g. crab, lobster, shrimp)
  • Tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans)
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Soybeans

Food Allergies

Food allergy is an abnormal immune response to certain food(s) that the body reacts to as harmful. Food allergies cause 30,000 cases of anaphylaxis, 2,000 hospitalizations, and 150 deaths annually. While more than 160 foods can cause allergic reactions in people with food allergies, the law identifies the eight most common allergenic foods. Risk factors associated with food allergy include: family history of asthma and allergies, genetic predisposition to allergic disease, elevated allergen-specific serum immunoglobulin levels (IgE concentrations), and being younger than 3 years of age. There are eight foods that account for 90% of all food-allergy reactions cow’s milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts (for example, walnuts, pecans, almonds, and cashews), fish, shellfish, soybeans, and wheat.

Symptoms of Food Allergy

Symptoms of a food-allergy reaction can be sudden and severe and commonly include one or more of the following:

  • hives
  • tingling in the mouth
  • swelling in the tongue and throat
  • difficulty breathing
  • abdominal cramps
  • vomiting or diarrhea
  • eczema or rash
  • coughing or wheezing
  • loss of consciousness
  • dizziness

Treatment of Food Allergies

Some types of mild food allergies are treatable with an antihistamine or bronchodilator. Severe, or anaphylactic reactions, require epinephrine. At present, there is no cure for food allergies. The best method for managing food allergies is prevention by way of strict avoidance of any food that triggers a reaction.


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