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Living with Food Allergies

Prevent Allergic Reactions: Know What’s in Your Food

young woman shopping in grocery store
young woman shopping in grocery store

Being aware of ingredients in food helps prevent allergic reactions and ensures safe eating habits for those with food allergy.

When someone has a food allergy, avoiding foods containing their food allergen (the food they’re allergic to) is a key safety practice. Food is a central part of daily living and is the focus of many social events and gatherings. With a food allergy, both self-management and community support are needed to help prevent allergic reactions.

Three steps to keep those with food allergy safe and help prevent reactions

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Know the priority food allergens

In Canada, the priority food allergens are tree nuts, sesame, milk, egg, fish, crustaceans (such as lobster, shrimp) and molluscs (such as scallops, clams), soy, wheat and triticale, mustard, and peanut. This is because they’re responsible for triggering most food-induced allergic reactions, although you can be allergic to any food. 

These allergens may be included in certain foods you may not expect. For example, milk can be in canned tuna, processed meats, and candy. Fish can be in gelatin, salad dressings, Worcestershire sauce, and even marshmallows, while sesame is a common ingredient in many Middle Eastern and Asian foods like hummus and oils. And did you know that people with a peanut allergy may be allergic to foods containing ingredients that come from peas, like pea protein or pea protein isolate, or to other legumes?

Our #MoreThanPeanuts campaign highlights all the priority allergens and foods they may unexpectedly be included in. Share our campaign posts on social media with family and friends to create awareness for all food allergies.

More than peanuts-Food Allergy Canada

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Read food labels

You can’t just look at food to determine if it’s safe for someone with a food allergy. Read ingredient lists carefully from start to finish and the “contains” and “may contain” statements on the package. As per Canadian food labelling regulations, the priority food allergens, if used, must be included on the label of pre-packaged products like a box of cereal or a can of soup. 

Do the triple-check and read labels: 

  1. At the store, before buying a product 
  2. When you get home and put it away, and 
  3. Before you serve it.
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Avoid cross-contamination

Cross-contamination can happen when a food allergen accidentally gets into another food or onto a surface or object. To reduce the chances of cross-contamination for someone with a food allergy, wash your hands before and after eating as well as before and after preparing food. Also, don’t share items with them, such as food or drinks, napkins, utensils, and straws, and clean surfaces with soap and water, commercial cleaners, or wipes.

With these steps, you’re helping to support those with food allergy and create a community that’s more allergy aware.

Get these resources for managing food allergy

Back-to-school with food allergy checklist  

This checklist has key tips on steps to take, whether your child is just starting school or is a returning student. Plus, it has information for students to help them navigate the new school year confidently, including pointers on eating safely and being prepared. Refer to it throughout the year to help your child stay healthy and safe while at school.  

Caring for a child with food allergy guide 

This guide is for grandparents, babysitters, coaches, and others who provide care for kids with food allergy. It will come in handy whether your child is going to grandma’s house, playing on a sports team, or taking part in other activities in which they’re being looked after by someone else. It’s very visual, making it easy to follow along.

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