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Tips for Avoiding Hidden Food Allergens

Posted on October 02, 2019



The possibility of allergens hiding in packaged foods is a source of stress and worry for members of MyFoodAllergyTeam. Members report adverse reactions after using a product with a confusing label, hours-long internet sessions researching terms like “natural flavoring,” and overwhelming supermarket trips.

Food allergies can make trips to the grocery store stressful, especially when dealing with a new allergy. One newly diagnosed member asked, “I'm just wondering if anyone has major anxiety for food shopping. All these chemical names and the hidden stuff behind it. I just can't figure it out.” Another member commiserated, “So difficult to always identify [allergens] with all the difficult names they give them on the labels.”

Other members find that grocery shopping takes far more time than it used to before a food allergy diagnosis. “In the past it took me about an hour to do grocery shopping, but now it takes me three to four times longer because I have to read everything and to get one item that [my son] can eat I read like 40 different packages. It is so frustrating sometimes,” a mother on MyFoodAllergyTeam wrote.

Some members use apps to help make reading labels and avoiding food allergens easier. “It takes the guesswork out of understanding labels. I enter my food allergies and it does the rest,” a member shared. She recommends Fooducate, Ipiit, and ShopWell.

Certain ingredient names are well-known as red flags to members.

  • Chemically modified starch: “My best friend Google tells me unless it specifically says corn starch, it’s made of tapioca or WHEAT,” a member commented.
  • Spices/Seasonings: “Almost all premade foods have black pepper in them,” a member wrote. “The labels list it as spices or seasonings.” Spices or seasonings could also include garlic or herbs.
  • Natural flavors/flavoring: “I avoid anything that says ‘natural flavors’ because you never know what’s in them,” a member wrote.

While paying strict attention to food labels is time-consuming, some members see a silver lining. “Since I was diagnosed, I have read every label thoroughly so that now I make better food choices,” one member shared.

Rather than closely review food labels, some MyFoodAllergyTeam members avoid any packaged foods. “I no longer buy processed food,” a member commented. “I cook all my food. It makes life more difficult, but safer.” Another member agreed, “One way to avoid hidden food irritants is to cook from scratch!”

On MyFoodAllergyTeam, the social network and online support group for those living with food allergies, members talk about a range of personal experiences and struggles. Hidden allergens in packaged foods is one of the most discussed topics.

Here are some conversations about hidden allergens:

 

 

Here is a question-and-answer threads about hidden allergens:

 

 

Can you relate? Do you have tips for reading food labels and avoiding hidden food allergens? Share in the comments below or on MyFoodAllergyTeam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

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