Top Food Allergens to Watch Out For and Reading Food Labels
Don't Know Where To Start?
The terms food allergies, food intolerance, and food sensitivities are becoming more and more common as time goes on and individuals are noticing reactions to certain foods. So what do these all mean and how do you know what's in the food you buy?
A food allergy is an immune response to specific proteins found in certain foods. The top allergens that challenge us today are products containing tree nuts such as almonds and cashews, milk, eggs, sesame, fish, shellfish, soy, wheat (celiac), and lupin (lupini beans). If you have any one of these allergies, even the smallest amount can cause severe reactions. Symptoms can include anaphylaxis, eczema, facial swelling, and vomiting. Food allergies must be diagnosed by a GP or immunologist.
Food Allergy Stats
- 1 in every 20 children
- 2 in every 100 adults
- Nearly 10% of babies have a food allergy but are likely to outgrow it.
Food Intolerance / Food Sensitivities
Some would say that food sensitivities are almost popular amongst adults today in 2020 because they are far more common than true food allergies. So what's the difference? A food sensitivity or intolerance creates a chemical response in the body to the food that doesn't sit well - whereas a food allergy is an immune response. Certain individuals are able to tolerate more compared to others which is called a threshold amount.
Example: John can have two glasses of milk and Sally can only have one, but as soon as they breach this amount, uncomfortable symptoms can occur such as headaches and stomach pain.
Food intolerances also have a stacking effect where the same chemical is consumed on two different occasions from two different foods but the build up in the body forces the chemical response.
Example: Sally only has one glass of milk at breakfast but also has yoghurt and consumed over her dairy limit.
Reading Food Labels
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guides food labelling laws. Food allergens much always be listed in the ingredient list using their common names such as milk or eggs (or the 10 listed above). The labels must also decipher which type of tree nut and source of shellfish - such as "contains shrimp" or "contains almonds". Ingredients and claims on food labels must be clearly visible and 100% true - such as LivBars "soy free" and "dairy free" claims - which are heavily authorized by the FDA.
All LivBar ingredients are free from the top allergens listed in this article, however, they are made in a facility which processes coconuts, which is classified as a tree nut. This is why the back of the bar reads "made in a facility which processes tree nuts." However, there is a lot of controversy over whether coconuts should be considered a tree nut or not.
LivBar Food Label - FDA Label Requirements
- Statement of Identity: Organic Superfood Bar
- Manufacturers Address: 249 Liberty St NE #232 Salem, Oregon 97301
- Organic Certifier: Oregon Tilth
- Nutrition Facts: serving size, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals
- Ingredients List: for example, organic honey
"In response to the recent guidance issued by the Food and Drug Administration relaxing rules regarding the labeling of ingredients, we at LivBar pledge not to change the ingredients of our products without reflecting the change on our labels. The trust we have garnered from the allergic community is of paramount importance to us and we will continue to earn that trust every day." - LivBar - click here to see our Snack Safely page.
- Understanding and using the Nutrition Facts Label
- FDA Food Label Requirements in a Nutshell
- Label Claims for Conventional Food and Dietary Supplements
Article written by Dietitian Nathan Cook