How to Identify Food Allergens in Packaged Foods

Food allergy, particularly in children, is on the rise. While we don’t yet know why, it is important for all parents to know about food allergy as even if your child does not have a food allergy, there is a high chance that one of their friends may have a food allergy. It is estimated that food allergy occurs in around 1 in 20 children (so that means there will probably be one child in your child’s class each year).

A food allergy occurs when a person’s immune system overreacts to the presence of a food protein. Most food allergies are diagnosed in young children as they start their journey with solids, but food allergies do sometimes present themselves in older children, and sometimes even in adulthood.

The most common food allergies in Australia are:

Did you that all of these food allergens MUST be declared on our food labels?

This means that if any ingredient, part of a compound ingredient, food additive or processing aid contains one of these allergens, or was derived from one of these allergens, it must be declared in the ingredients list of that food product?

Many packaged products use Summary Statements (Contains x y z…) to summarise all food allergens contained within a food product (which makes them much easier to find than searching through ingredients lists).

While contamination risk statements are not compulsory (May contain…, Processed on the same machinery…), many food manufacturers include them to highlight possible sources of contamination of individual food products. While eating unlabelled foods in a cafe or restaurant would have a much higher risk of contamination than these packaged foods, it is best to discuss the level of avoidance required for you or your child with your allergy specialist.

For some more tips and tricks on avoiding common allergens in our foods, see ASCIA page here.

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