Reading Food Labels for Allergies

Food allergy or food intolerance affects nearly everyone at some point. When someone has an unpleasant reaction to something they ate, they often think that they have an allergy to the food.

Food allergy is an abnormal response to food that is triggered by a specific reaction in the immune system and expressed by certain symptoms. Food intolerance is also an abnormal response to food.

Its symptoms can resemble those of food allergies however food intolerance is fare more prevalent and is triggered by several different mechanisms that are distinct from the immunological reaction responsible for food allergy.

Anyone with a food allergy must attempt to identify and prevent them because these reactions may cause devastating illness and potentially be fatal.


Diagnosing a food allergy can be a challenge for most doctors. First the doctor must determine if the patient is having an adverse reaction to specific foods. The doctor makes this assessment with the help of a detailed history from the patient, the patients dietary diary, or an elimination diet. The doctor then confirms the diagnosis by the more objective skin tests, blood tests, or food challenges.

The dietary history is the most important diagnostic tool. The physician interviews the patient to determine if the facts are consistent with a food allergy. If the patients history, dietary diary, or elimination diet suggests that a specific food allergy is likely, the doctor will then use tests, such as skin tests, blood tests, and a food challenge, which can more objectively confirm an allergic response to food.


There is no known cure for food allergies. Avoidance of the food that causes the allergy is the only way a person will be able to prevent a reaction. The improved food label will help make it easier for food allergic people and their caregivers to identify and avoid foods that contain major food allergens.

Food allergies are on the rise in children and the new and improved food labeling information is especially helpful to children who must learn to recognize the presence of substances they need to avoid. Children need to learn to read the food labels to determine whether or not the product contains an allergy causing food.

Manufacturers must identify the presence of a major food allergen in one of two ways. These ways include listing the ingredients in which manufacturers must state the source of an allergenic ingredient in parentheses after the name of the ingredient.

Manufacturers must also add the word ‘contains followed by the name of the source of each allergenic ingredient in the food.

Once a patient and their doctor have identified the food to which the patient is sensitive, the food must be removed completely from their diet. The patient must read lengthy and detailed ingredient lists on each food they are considering eating.

Many allergy producing foods such as peanuts, eggs, and milk, appear in foods in which one would not normally associate them with. People can avoid most of the things to which they are sensitive if they read food labels carefully and avoid restaurant prepared foods that might contain ingredients that they are allergic to.