Severe allergic reactions to food can occur quickly, sometimes without warning, and the reactions can be life threatening. Food allergies are more common in children but can affect people of all ages. As many as 2.5 million Canadians - or about seven per cent of the population - identify themselves as having one or more food allergies.
Peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, soy, seafood (fish and shellfish), wheat, eggs, milk, mustard and sulphites are the food allergens that typically cause allergic reactions and are known in Canada as the priority allergens.
For people with food allergies, sensitivities or intolerances, the best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid the specific food or ingredient in the first place. Health Canada requires that most prepackaged foods carry a label and that the ingredients appear on labels in decreasing order of proportion. Recent amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations enhanced the labelling requirements for specific priority allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites in prepackaged foods sold in Canada.
What you should do
Read product labels to see if allergens are listed as ingredients or if the label has an allergen “contains” statement.
Always check product labels and read them carefully, as manufacturers sometimes change the ingredients used in familiar products.
Avoid food products that do not list their ingredients or those that contain an ingredient that you don’t recognize.
Obviously, avoid food products that contain the specific allergens but also those that contain derivatives of allergens to which you are allergic.
Avoid food products if the label indicates that they “may contain” an ingredient to which you are allergic.
When eating at a friend’s home, or in a restaurant, tell your host/server about your food allergy, and ask specific questions about the food being served.
If you have been prescribed an epinephrine/adrenaline auto-injector, learn how to use it properly and carry it with you at all times.