Food Allergies

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Food allergies are an abnormal reaction to food. An allergic reaction usually occurs within minutes or up to 2 hours after you eat a food item. About 1 in 20 children are allergic to at least one food.

There is good news, except for peanuts and tree nuts, most children tend to outgrow their food allergies.

Major Food Allergens

  • Milk
  • Tree nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts, pecans)
  • Soybeans
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Crustacean shellfish (e.g. crab, lobster, shrimp)
  • Fish (e.g., bass, flounder, cod)
  • Eggs

Signs of an allergic reaction

  • Sneezing, runny nose, coughing, difficulty breathing, wheezing
  • Itchy skin or eyes
  • Swelling
  • Nausea, diarrhea, gas, stomach pain, and cramps
  • Hives
  • Flushed skin or rash

Please note: A small percentage of people have severe reactions that can threaten their lives.

How to help manage a food allergy

  • Get help: Your health care provider is an expert that can help.
  • Avoid offering problem foods: Be aware that mixed foods may contain some problem ingredients.
  • Find out about food substitutes: Your child may be missing out on key       nutrients, so offer other foods with the same nutrient benefits.
  • Read the ingredient list on food labels: See if a packaged food has the problem ingredient. (Ingredients may change so be sure to read the label every time).
  • Tell all caregivers: Bring a note from your health care provider to the daycare center.  Be sure to tell babysitters, grandparents, other relatives, and friends.
  • Order carefully for your child: When you eat out, ask about the ingredients.
  • Take food from home: If you’re not sure about food away from home, pack food for you child.  Let them help for fun!
  • Role-play with your child: Practice what to do when a problem food is offered.

How to read a label for food allergies

How are allergens listed on the food label?

  • In the ingredient list, using the common name
  • Using the word ‘contains’ followed by the allergen. (Contains: Nuts)
  • In the ingredient list in parentheses, for example, “albumin (egg)”

Milk Allergy

Avoid foods that contain milk or any of these ingredients:

  • Butter, Buttermilk, Casein, Tagatose, Cheese, Lactose, Cream, Lactulose, Ghee, Diacetyl, Yogurt, Half-and-half, Sour Cream, Custard, Cottage Cheese, Pudding, Milk (in all forms), Whey (in all forms)    

Milk is sometimes found in the following:

  • Baked Goods, Caramel Candies, Chocolate, Luncheon Meat, Hot Dogs, Sausages, Artificial Butter Flavor, Margarine

You will find the term “non-dairy” on food items like creamers and frozen whipped toppings.

Always read the complete list of ingredients. Be sure to look for this type of wording on packages:

  • “Natural Flavoring”- contains caseinate a milk protein
  • “Sodium caseinate”- a milk by-product
  • “Contains: Milk”

Peanut Allergy

Avoid foods that contain peanuts or any of these ingredients:

  • Artificial Nuts, Monkey Nuts, Nutmeat, Peanut Flour, Mixed Nuts, Beer Nuts, Nut Pieces, Peanut Butter, Ground Nuts, Peanut Oil, Peanut Protein Hydrolysate

Peanuts are sometimes found in the following:

  • Baked Goods, Enchilada Sauce, Marzipan, Mole Sauce, Chili, Candy, Egg Rolls, Nougat, and African, Asian, and Mexican Dishes

Egg Allergy

Avoid foods that contain eggs or any of these ingredients:

  • Egg, Eggnog, Mayonnaise, Albumin, Meringue, Ovalbumin, Lysozyme, Surimi

Eggs are sometimes found in the following:

  • Marshmallows, Pasta, Egg Substitutes, Baked Goods, Macaroni

Wheat Allergy

Avoid foods that contain wheat or any of these ingredients:

  • Bread Crumbs, Soy Protein, Pasta, Semolina, Flour, Matzo, Bulgur, Cereal Extract, Couscous, Durum, Wheat, Triticale

Wheat is sometimes found in the following:

  • Glucose syrup, Surimi (Chinese Fish Puree), Starch, Soy Sauce

Soy Allergy

Avoid foods that contain soy or any of these ingredients:

  • Soya, Soy Protein, Tamari, Tofu, Shoyu, Miso, Soybean, Soy Sauce, Tempeh, Soy, Natto, Edamame

Soy is sometimes found in the following:

  • Asian cuisine, Vegetable Broth, Vegetable Gum, Vegetable Starch

Shellfish Allergy

Avoid foods that contain shellfish or any of these ingredients:

  • Crab, Lobster, Shrimp, Crawfish, Prawn

Your doctor may advise you to avoid mollusks or these ingredients:

  • Clams, Octopus, Snails, Fish Stock, Cuttlefish Ink, Mussels, Oysters, Squid, Seafood Flavoring

Please note: Be aware that cross-contamination may occur in seafood restaurants that serve many kinds of seafood.

Tree Nut Allergy

Avoid foods that contain nuts or any of these ingredients:

  • Almonds, Butternut, Chestnuts, Ginkgo Nuts, Nut Butters, Pesto, Walnuts, Artificial Nuts, Cashews, Coconut, Hickory Nuts, Pecans, Pistachios, Macadamia Nuts

Tree Nuts are sometimes found in the following:

  • Nut Oils, Black walnut hull extract (flavoring), Nut distillate/alcoholic extracts
  • Vegan or vegetarian foods

What is “cross contact” and how can it be avoided?

Cross contact is when the food allergen is transferred to a food meant to be allergen free. Even if the infected food is cooked, the food allergen may still be present.

  • If you are making several different kinds of food, make the allergy safe foods first
  • Keep the safe allergen free food away and covered from the other food. 
  • Always use utensils, pans, and cutting boards that have been washed with soap and water. 
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after handling a food allergen.

Sources: Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE),,

This post was last updated on January 13th, 2022 at 3:59 PM

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