The most common sensitivities
Approximately 2 to 2.5 percent of the general population suffer from a food allergy. According to various medical sources such as the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, there are eight food allergies that account for 90 percent of all food allergies. These eight include peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, eggs, milk, soy and wheat.
Some allergies are more severe, or more difficult to deal with:
- Peanuts: Approximately 1.1 percent of the population is believed to be allergic to peanuts or tree nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, etc.). Peanuts are the leading cause of severe allergic reactions. Traces of peanuts are found in many products, a fact which has led many schools to ban certain foods on behalf of students with the allergy. It is no surprise then, that many companies are now offering peanut-free products.
- Eggs: Eggs are a difficult allergy because they're a common ingredient in many foods. They're often used to create the foam or milk topping on specialty coffee drinks and are used in some bar drinks as well. Some commercial brands of egg substitutes contain egg whites. Most commercially processed cooked pastas (including those used in prepared foods such as soup) contain egg or are processed on equipment shared with egg-containing pastas. Boxed, dry pastas are usually egg-free, but may be processed on equipment that is also used for egg-containing products. Fresh pasta is sometimes egg-free, too. Read the label or ask about ingredients before eating any type of pasta.
- Milk: Other names for milk include ammonium / calcium / magnesium / potassium / sodium caseinate, casein / caseinate / rennet casein, curds, delactosed / demineralized whey, Dry milk / milk / sour cream / sour milk solids, hydrolyzed casein, hydrolyzed milk protein, lactalbumin / lactalbumin phosphate, lactate / lactose, lactoferrin, lactoglobulin, milk derivative / fat / protein, modified milk ingredients, Opta, Simplesse (fat replacers), whey and whey protein concentrate. Be sure to read labels carefully to avoid milk products.
- Soy: Soy beans are legumes. Other foods in the legume family include navy beans, kidney beans, string beans, black beans, pinto beans, chickpeas (garbanzo or chichi beans), lentils, carob, licorice and peanuts.
- Food additives and preservatives: Substances are added to various foods for coloring, flavoring and preserving. Food additives include the following groups: food dyes and colorings (such as tartrazine, annatto and carmine); antioxidants (such as BHA and BHT); emulsifiers and stabilizers (such as gums and lecithin); flavorings and taste enhancers (such as MSG, spices and sweeteners); preservatives (such as benzoates, nitrates and sulfites).
Since many allergies are not diagnosed and therefore are not on record, the exact rate of allergic reactions cannot be determined. Studies show that up to 200 people die every year from allergic reactions to food products, but many childhood allergy sufferers will outgrow their condition over time.