Food Allergy Awareness Week
Hi everyone! This week is Food Allergy Awareness Week, so I want to share a quick public service announcement about food allergies and the importance of reading labels.
A few weeks ago, as I was grocery shopping, I was looking for some gruyere cheese to pair with homemade bread and French onion soup. My local co-op has a huge selection of local and artisan cheeses and I came across a French Raclette. Since I’d never heard of it, I looked at the label. Sure enough, it contains lysozyme–an enzyme from egg albumen. Although I’d heard of lysozyme in cheese, I had never actually seen it. I was very grateful “egg” was in parenthesis because many people may not know that lysozyme can cause serious reactions in egg-allergic people.
This instance shows the importance of ALWAYS reading labels–even when you’re sure a food is safe. Even though cheese should be a safe food for me, there are always exceptions, especially with specialty food products. You never know when there could be an unexpected allergen or when a company changes it’s recipe or production methods. It never hurts to check the label or ask questions if there is ANY doubt.
Allergies and Anxiety
It’s situations like this that make food-allergic people, like myself, very paranoid. If you haven’t actually lived it, there’s no way to fully understand the level of fear and anxiety that comes with life-threatening allergies. All it takes is a little cross contamination with an allergen to land someone in the hospital.
Therefore, it is so important to be contentious when cooking for someone with allergies. Please never be offended if they aren’t comfortable eating something. If they grill you with questions about the ingredients, how you made it, or what it was prepared with, it’s nothing personal! Food-allergic people are hyperaware of hidden allergens or where cross contamination may have occurred. Instances like my encounter in the cheese department remind us that when you have allergies, you can’t trust anything without a label if you didn’t make yourself. With all that being said, here are my top takeaways from this experience.
- Always check labels no matter what!
- Allergens can show up in unexpected places.
- Know the other names for common allergens.
- Before cooking for someone with allergies, check in with him/her first.
- Don’t take offense if food-allergic people are skeptical of/uncomfortable eating food they didn’t prepare themselves.
More on Food Allergies
For more information on food allergies and Food Allergy Awareness Week, check out FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education). I’ve also listed some of my other allergy-related posts below. If there are other topics you’d like me to cover on food allergies, let me know in the comments!