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Food Allergies You Need to Know


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Allergy Free.  Nut and Seed Free.  Gluten Free.  The signs are everywhere these days.

Allergies appear to be on the rise and awareness has grown.  Everyone knows someone who has an allergy.  It wasn’t like this when I was growing up, or at least it didn’t seem that way.  The only person I knew who had an allergy was my dad.  He was allergic to sesame, but since we didn’t go out to eat very often, I never really noticed.   Looking back, I realize why we never had hummus or sesame bagels.  Since I enjoy cooking Asian and middle eastern foods, I have to stop and think every time he comes over to make sure I don’t accidentally add sesame oil or sesame seeds to a dish I am preparing.  I go out of my way to make special recipes like Walnut Hummus so he can enjoy the taste of hummus, without the inconvenience of upper respiratory failure that can totally ruin your night.  When we all go out to eat for Chinese, Japanese or Israeli food we make sure to let the waiter know, no sesame.  Fortunately, my family is allergy-free, but I feel for my friends who struggle and their children who struggle with food allergies.

An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system mistakes a harmless substance for a dangerous one. In response, the system launches a full-scale attack, wreaking havoc on your body.

Here are 20 of the most common allergenic foods:

  • Cow’s Milk
  • Wheat gluten (gliadin)
  • Gluten (in wheat, oats, rye and barley)
  • Yeast
  • Egg Whites
  • Cashew nuts
  • Egg Yolk
  • Garlic
  • Soya beans
  • Brazil nuts
  • Almonds
  • Corn
  • Hazelnuts
  • Oats
  • Lentils
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Chili peppers
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Peanuts
  • Spinach
  • Shrimp
  • Oranges
  • Chicken
  • Strawberries
  • Tomato
  • Pork
  • Beef

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires food manufacturers to list the eight most common ingredients that trigger food allergies. Most other countries have similar rules. In the United States, information about food allergies has to be written in simple terms adults and older children can understand. The eight foods included in food allergy labeling account for an estimated 90 percent of allergic reactions. These eight foods are:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts)
  • Fish (such as bass, cod, flounder)
  • Shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp)
  • Soy
  • Wheat

As a culture, we seem to be more sensitive to the dietary needs of others.  As an observant Jew, this is a very positive development. It is common to see Jews and non-Jews dining together in kosher restaurants for business and menu options for vegetarians and vegans.  When we are hosts and guests we also share a responsibility to try to learn the allergies and food restrictions of others.  A simple question posed to a guest like: “Do you or anyone in your family have any allergies or dietary restrictions?” is an act of kindness and generosity that can elevate a simple Shabbat meal.

Let us know how you deal with food allergies in the comments below.

The line refers to the foods that are not kosher, I didn’t remove them in case anyone reading this doesn’t keep kosher and would need to know.

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About Tamar Genger MA, RD


Tamar lives in New York and is the mother of three amazing children, a Registered Dietitian, professor of Nutrition, and as you can probably guess, a foodie! Tamar loves to travel with her family and visits kosher restaurants wherever she goes. Although she loves the sights, she spends more time talking about the restaurants and food she ate! As a mom and a nutritionist, Tamar tries to balance her passion for healthy cooking with her insatiable desire for chocolate!




3 Responses to Food Allergies You Need to Know

  1. avatar says: rubyv

    Also important, even if your allergy is to a non kosher item, awareness matters. My shellfish allergy got triggered at seaworld not from food, but from contact and inhaled – lots of shellfish gets cooked there (which just seems wrong somehow). Also, it has happened in supermarkets, where a company, doing a demo, hands out a shellfish sample, and it spills somewhere unknown. Don’t assume that keeping kosher will keep you safe – carry your epi pen!

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