Tag Archives: Hidden Allergens

Spreading Awareness about “Hidden” Ingredients

As those living with food allergies, many of us have spent years becoming expert-level ingredient checkers. We know our ‘allergen-safe’ brands, what to avoid, and have grown to incorporate our ingredient checking into every grocery shopping trip. I try to follow the general rule of checking three times: once at the store, once when I unpack the groceries at home, and finally, when I am about to cook with the item. The large majority of the time I catch any issues at the store, but there have been several times where I have caught something last minute – often when a brand I have used before has changed their ingredient list or added a ‘may contain’ statement. A couple of my last-minute catches include plain white rice with a ‘may contain peanuts’ label and sausages that were labelled ‘may contain tree nuts’.

Our experience and awareness of hidden ingredients in food, make us the most effective people to help teach those around us what to look for when preparing food that we can safely eat. If someone is inviting me over for a meal, they want to ensure it is a safe experience. I have found that I can often play an active role in that process.

I typically try to stick with meals consisting of mostly fresh food with few ingredients, as this reduces the risk of cross-contamination. For example, unseasoned meat and vegetables is a reliable go-to meal for me.  Pre-seasoned or packaged versions can sometimes have ingredients that you wouldn’t expect. When someone is making me a meal, I also find it helpful to give the person cooking some examples of where hidden ingredients or issues can be. For example, flour has many ingredients, and there are different varieties such as almond flour which would obviously be an issue for people allergic to tree nuts. I also remind everyone that I won’t eat ingredients bought in bulk since the risk of cross-contamination at the store is typically high. I find that people have a tendency to buy rarely-used spices or baking ingredients at bulk stores since they don’t need large quantities. Other items that non-allergic people may use without considering checking ingredient labels are condiments and sauces. As we know, even these can have unexpected ingredients. Finally, I also mention to a host that multi-use kitchen tools, such as cutting boards have the potential risk of cross-contamination if not properly cleaned.

Using my years of experience and first-hand knowledge to help others become aware of the different areas of risk that I face is important. The more they are aware, the more they will understand my processes and how they can help make sure the food is safe.

– Alison M.

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Hidden Allergens in Beauty Products

To the average person who does not have allergies, many believe that reading labels does not go beyond those on foods. Many people are surprised to find that when I shop for new make-up or beauty products, I will spend excessive amounts of time in the shopping aisle, struggling to read the fine print of lengthy ingredient labels.

When shopping for new beauty products, it is really important to know exactly what you need to avoid and that you take the time to read labels. The labels on beauty products are often very long and I am always tempted to skim through them. However, too often I find an ingredient I am allergic to.

set of  decorative cosmetic powder, concealer, eye shadow brush, blush, foundation

Personally, I try to stick to the same products that I know are safe, but being a twenty-year-old girl, I often want to try new brands of products. I have tree nut allergies, as well as an allergy to formaldehyde that results in dermatitis. Before finding out I had this allergy, I thought formaldehyde was simply used in laboratories for preservation, but little did I know formaldehyde-releasing chemicals could be found in many low-budget beauty products! To complicate things further, after being diagnosed with this allergy, my dermatologist provided me with a list of 6 chemical names that are actually formaldehyde, since you will never find formaldehyde listed in an ingredients list.

Formaldehyde is not the only allergen that has multiple names. Even with tree nut allergies, there are many different types of nuts and oils that can cause a reaction. Your best bet is to do some research about your allergens so you have a better idea of what ingredients to watch for. Make sure you check the label every time you buy a product, even if you always buy the same brand, because ingredients can change without warning. It is much easier to read the label than to deal with the consequences of a reaction.

Another thing to keep in mind is that just because a product claims that it is hypoallergenic, does not necessarily mean it will be safe for you. The meaning behind a hypoallergenic product is that it has a low chance of causing a reaction. Be sure to check labels regardless!

– Sara S.