Food Allergen Awareness

It is estimated that 33 million people have food allergies in the United States. There are many foods that can cause an allergic reaction in a person, but the following nine foods are recognized by the Food and Drug Administration as the leading causes of food allergies:

  • Fin Fish (including salmon, cod, and tilapia)
  • Crustacean Shellfish (including shrimp, crab and lobster)
  • Tree Nuts (almonds, pecans and walnuts)
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Eggs
  • Sesame

A food allergy is when a person's body reacts to a substance like it is harmful. The body produces antibodies to fight against the allergen. The severity of the reaction can vary based on how much allergen was consumed and the amount of previous exposures.  Symptoms can include:

  • Hives (swollen, itchy skin irritation)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Itchy throat or mouth
  • Swelling of lips, tongue or throat
  • Sneeze or cough
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Becoming cyanotic (bluish colored skin)

Anaphylaxis means a severe, life threatening reaction to an allergen that is a combination of one or more symptoms above and poses an immediate danger to the life of the person. It is often associated with a respiratory or cardiac emergency where rapid recognition and reaction is critical.

Tips for reacting to an allergic response:

  • Have the individual administer their epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) if available & signs of anaphylaxis are present
  • Call 9-1-1 for emergency assistance
  • Get the food item away from the individual
  • Make sure their breathing is controlled and airway is open; minimize panic
  • Get them to medical care immediately

Check out the Guidance on Recognition and Treatment of Anaphylaxis in Restaurants

Close u pf mixed nuts, including almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts
Raw salmon
Pitcher and glass of milk on a table with sunflowers in the background
Shrimp in spaghetti with a white sauce and herbs