According to the The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), established in 1991, eight foods account for 90 percent of all food-allergic reactions. They are milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat [See details for top 8 foods]. FAAN notes that some of these allergens may be outgrown, but others, such as peanut and shellfish, will remain lifelong allergies.
The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) was founded by Anne Muñoz-Furlong after her daughter was diagnosed with a milk and egg allergy as an infant.
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) [pdf] requires food manufacturers to disclose products that contain any of the top eight food allergens listed above, when present in any amount, even in colors, flavors, or spice blends.
It’s important to note that if you are allergic to a food or ingredient exempt from FALCPA, the ingredient you are making an effort to avoid may be disguised and obscured under food labels such as colors, flavors, or spices — as one of our readers, Brian, discovered and shared with us recently.
Scientists estimate that approximately 12 million Americans suffer from food allergies. A food allergy occurs when the immune system erroneously attacks a food protein, activating the release of chemicals, including histamine, manifesting in symptoms that include rashes, hives, itching, swelling, wheezing, impaired breathing, and even loss of consciousness resulting in death.
Note the diagnostic and treatment sections listed below, courtesy of FAAN.
A skin prick test or a blood test (such as the Immulite or ImmunoCap test) for IgE antibodies is commonly used to begin to determine if an allergy exists. A skin prick test is usually less expensive and can be done in the doctor’s office.
Positive skin prick tests or immunoassay test results will show that IgE is present in the body, but cannot alone predict that a reaction will occur if the patient were to eat a suspected allergy-causing food.
The results of the tests are combined with other information, such as a history of symptoms and the result of a food challenge to determine whether a food allergy exists.
Strict avoidance of the allergy-causing food is the only way to avoid a reaction. Reading ingredient labels for all foods is the key to avoiding a reaction. If a product doesn’t have a label, individuals with a food allergy should not eat that food. If you have any doubt whether a food is safe, call the manufacturer for more information. There is no cure for food allergies. Studies are inconclusive about whether food allergies can be prevented.