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Food Allergy Facts: Severe Food Allergies Can Be Life-threatening
Food AllergiesBy the Food & Drug Administration
The top eight allergy foods identified by the law:
How Major Food Allergens Are Listed
The law requires that food labels identify the food source of all major food allergens. Unless the food source of a major food allergen is part of the ingredient's common or usual name (or is already identified in the ingredient list), it must be included in one of two ways.
The name of the food source of a major food allergen must appear:
- In parentheses following the name of the ingredient.
Examples: "lecithin (soy)," "flour (wheat)," and "whey (milk)"
– OR –
- Immediately after or next to the list of ingredients in a "contains" statement.
Example: "Contains Wheat, Milk, and Soy."
About Other Allergens
Persons may still be allergic to — and have serious reactions to — foods other than the eight foods identified by the law. So, always be sure to read the food label's ingredient list carefully to avoid the food allergens in question.
Food Allergies: What to Do If Symptoms Occur
The appearance of symptoms (see Know the Symptoms below) after eating food may be a sign of a food allergy. The food(s) that caused these symptoms should be avoided, and the affected person, should contact a doctor or health care provider for appropriate testing and evaluation.
- Persons found to have a food allergy should learn to read labels and avoid the offending foods. They should also learn, in case of accidental ingestion, to recognize the early symptoms of an allergic reaction, and be properly educated on — and armed with — appropriate treatment measures.
- Persons with a known food allergy who begin experiencing symptoms while, or after, eating a food should initiate treatment immediately, and go to a nearby emergency room if symptoms progress.
Know the Symptoms of Allergic Reactions
Symptoms of food allergies typically appear from within a few minutes to two hours after a person has eaten the food to which he or she is allergic.
|Allergic reactions can include:|
The Hard Facts:
Severe Food Allergies Can Be Life-Threatening
Following ingestion of a food allergen(s), a person with food allergies can experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.
This can lead to:
- constricted airways in the lungs
- severe lowering of blood pressure and shock ("anaphylactic shock")
- suffocation by swelling of the throat
Each year in the U.S., it is estimated that anaphylaxis to food results in:
- 30,000 emergency room visits
- 2,000 hospitalizations
- 150 deaths
How to Order Print Copies of this Information:
Printed versions of this flyer is available from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) by calling 1-888-SAFEFOOD or by sending an email request, including name address and phone number, to OCO2@cfsan.fda.gov.
For English request "CFS 26"; for Spanish request "CFS 26S".
U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, March 2010
For additional information:
First published in May 2008. Updated March 2010.