Everything You Need to Know About Reading Food Labels for Allergens

Allergic reactions to food items can range from mild to severe in children and adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), four out of every one hundred children are afflicted with a food allergy.

If you have a child that you feel may have a food allergy, undergoing specific food allergy testing is vital because food allergies can be life-threatening. At Arkansas Allergy and Asthma Clinic, we can provide diagnostic testing to identify the allergen that is causing the allergic reaction in your child (or you)— and then develop an action plan to manage that food allergy.

Peanut Allergies and Anaphylactic Shock

Public health researchers have determined that over the past two decades, the prevalence of childhood peanut allergic reactions has significantly increased. When people are allergic to peanuts, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and a rapid heartbeat are often associated with the onset of the severe allergic reaction termed anaphylactic shock (requiring a quickly-administered epinephrine shot).

The possibility that an allergic student might have a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction has prompted increased attention over the past decade to the traditional inclusion of peanuts in public school lunches. (Once the mainstay of public school lunches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are now generally excluded as a lunch option). Meanwhile, it is important for the parents of a child allergic to peanuts (and anyone with a peanut allergy) to check food labels at home for the presence of peanut-ingredients.

While peanut allergies may require avoiding all ingestion of peanuts over a lifetime, a peanut allergy treatment plan is a good way to lessen the likelihood of frequent allergic reactions. Notably, some allergic children are allergic to more than one food substance, which can make it more difficult for them to ingest healthful daily meals. (Likewise, asthma-afflicted children are more likely to have food allergies.)

What are the Six Most Common Food Allergies?

The CDC reports that 90 percent of all food allergies are to the following:

  •   Milk;
  •   Wheat;
  •   Eggs;
  •   Peanuts and tree nuts;
  •   Shellfish (and other fish); and
  •   Soy products.

Common initial allergic symptoms to foods include a runny nose or skin rash. However, these can quickly progress to wheezing, a swollen throat, hives, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. As already mentioned, a severe potential reaction is anaphylactic shock (which can lead to breathing cessation without an immediate injection of epinephrine). For this reason, highly allergic people are strongly encouraged to carry a prescription-based epinephrine (adrenaline) injector at all times.

FDA Requirements on Food Labels

The FDA requires food labels on products sold in grocery stores. The following are the five typical elements contained on the label:

  •   Statement of the product’s identity;
  •   Product’s net weight;
  •   Nutrition facts (e.g., grams of protein contained in one serving);
  •   List of ingredients (e.g., peanut oil); and
  • Manufacturer.

Emerging Treatments for Food Allergies and Clinical Trials

A research article in 2018 suggested that food allergy treatment is shifting from food avoidance to interventions. Study findings published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism concluded that in toddlers, prevention through the measured introduction of specific food items (e.g., peanuts)  is associated with a decreased risk of developing a later allergy to that food item – and that prevention remains the best treatment.

Meanwhile, a currently-recruiting clinical trial listed on the federal online clinical trials database (ClinicalTrials.gov) is titled Safer Food Allergy Management for Adolescents and seeks to test other management and intervention processes.

Arkansas Allergy and Asthma Clinic is a Little Rock and Conway based clinic specializing in allergy diagnosis and treatment. If you live in the Little Rock, Arkansas area or one of the various surrounding communities, we are an excellent choice for food allergy diagnosis and treatment. Moreover, due to our capacity to treat both food allergies and asthma, we may still be the best choice for developing an allergy treatment plan (i.e., a peanut allergy treatment plan) even if you reside far from Little Rock.

If you have any further questions about food allergies, contact Arkansas Allergy & Asthma Clinic today at (501) 227-5210 to make an appointment with our local allergy clinic in Little Rock or Conway, Arkansas.