Unexpected Places to Find Food Allergens

Did you know that 32 million Americans have food allergies? That’s 1 in 13 children, or approximately two in every school classroom. For people with food allergies, worrying about accidental exposure can be exhausting. Reading food labels becomes a daily routine, while going to school or a friend’s house requires advance preparation and constantly being vigilant when food is present.
With the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Act (FALCPA) requiring that foods need to labeled to identify the nine major allergens (sesame will be added to labels in 2023), this law does not cover several areas where allergens may be hiding. Additionally, advisory statements of possible cross contact are not required and the common name of the allergen may not be easily found on the food label.

So how do you navigate the overwhelming world of hidden allergens and lack of regulation? Educating yourself on foods or objects to look out for and alternate wordings for allergens can help you and your family remain safe and healthy. Keep in mind, if you ever aren’t sure about something, always reach out to the company before trying it out yourself!

Hidden allergens in non-food products

You might not think of it, but food allergens are commonly found in many household items. FALCPA does not cover personal care items like cosmetics or shampoo, and pet foods, so it is important to not only read labels but also contact manufacturers if you are concerned about exposure. 

Common household items to watch out for include: 

  • Body products like lotions and soaps (nuts and coconut added to oils)
  • Allergy medicines (whey and lactose)
  • Play-Doh (wheat)
  • Chalk (lactose)
  • Crayons (soy)
  • Pet food (soy, nuts, fish)

Foods to pay close attention to

While FALCPA applies to many food products, labels are very confusing and “May contain…” is not a required part of the law. These are the foods that allergens commonly get added to:

  • Dressings and sauces (nuts)
  • Potato chips (wheat)
  • Breading (nuts)
  • Egg and butter substitutes (lactose)
  • Processed meats (lactose)
  • Marshmallows (shellfish)
  • Deli meats (soy)
  • Chewing gum (soy)

Alternative words to know for common food allergens

Knowing some other words for your child’s food allergen can make it easier to read food labels and identify any ingredients that could cause a reaction. Deciphering labels can be tricky, but knowing your allergy and what words to look out for can help make the shopping experience a bit easier to navigate. 

Some alternative words for common allergens include: 

  • Peanut: arachidic acid, hydrolyzed protein, goober nuts, valencias
  • Egg: albumin, lysozyme, ovalbumin
  • Dairy: casein, curds, custard, diacetyl, ghee, lactose, lactalbumin, llactoferrin, whey
  • Soy: edamame, miso, shoyu, soya, tempeh, vegetable protein, tofu)
  • Gluten: food starches, rye, durum, emmer, semolina, barley, triticale, malt, spelt, farro