July 20, 2022
A food allergy is a serious response, the body shows when you consume particular food or food additives. This response is caused by an excessive release of ‘histamines’ by the body and can be spontaneous (immediately after consuming) or may take minutes or even hours to show symptoms.
It is usually hard to say how your body will react to any food, but if you have experienced - a sudden swelling of a body part, such as the throat, tongue, and face, dizziness, respiratory problems, rashes etc. after consumption of a type of food you are probably allergic to it!
So, as we understand why Food Allergies can at times be life-threatening hence the Food Authority of India, FSSAI has made it essential for the food companies to declare them on the Food Label of their products. This was done after identifying 8 main types of foods, those cause allergies -
Allergen - Foods products that may contain it
Gluten - Cereals containing gluten; i.e., wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt or their hybridized strains and products of these;
Crustaceans - Crustacean and products of these
Egg - Egg, cake mixes, egg proteins powder, albumen powder
Fish - Fish and fish products
Soybeans - Soybeans and products of these
Milk - Milk, cheese, curds, and milk products (lactose included)
Nuts - Peanut, tree nuts and nut products like nut bars, roasted nuts, nuts included in cereal mixes like oatmeals etc.
Sulphite in concentrations of 10 mg/kg or more
However, the true percentage of people suffering from allergies is small but since it can be life-threatening, the Food Authorities like USFDA, CODEX, FSSAI, EU etc. have made it mandatory to include them on the product, especially if the company is exporting their product.
EFSA - European Food Safety Authority has gone ahead and observed 5 more allergy-causing foods - Celery, Mustard, Sesame seeds (til seeds), Lupin (a type of bean), and Molluscs (seafood like oysters, clams etc.)
Food allergens are usually listed on the back of the pack, below the list of ingredients in the products. You may identify terms like “Allergens: Milk and Soy”, “Contains milk and soy” etc. or companies may even take additional measures to highlight and emphasize them by using a “Food stamp” as a warning to those who are susceptible.
Sometimes, you may come across terms like -“Manufactured/Processed in a plant that processes wheat, milk, soy or crustaceans” or "Manufactured on shared equipment...may contain [peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, milk...]" or "Manufactured in a facility that processes [tree nuts], but not on the same equipment" or - which means the product doesn’t have an allergen or is not a part of the ingredients used to manufactured it but may have accidentally gotten into the product unintentionally.
Food allergies are mostly detected at a younger age when the babies are weaned from solid foods. Sometimes, our immune responses alter (especially in children) and we outgrow them. Some tests can be conducted to verify if you have allergies, so the earlier you visit a doctor if you experience these symptoms often the better you can be treated.
Sometimes an intolerance to a particular food may be misinterpreted as an allergy, It is always wise to get tested and remain informed of the food you consume too
Food allergies may not be cured, but sometimes your body outgrows it, especially for children. Since it is an overreaction of your body to food or food-related products, the histamine (immune response) can be reduced but not completely cured!
We have started a Choose Right blog series educating you on how to make the right choice! This series will guide you on things to look out for on food labels and how not to be misled and check your facts right on the same.
Rashida Vapiwala (Founder at LabelBlind®, Food Label Specialist, Ph.D (Food Science and Nutrition))
Rashida is passionate about solving problems for the food industry using technology. She loves creating tech-led solutions in the space of Nutrition.