If you have a severe allergy you will have gone out of your way to ensure your diet is free-from the offending ingredient. But allergens can be lurking in the most unlikely places. Who would suspect that peanuts could be found in soft furniture or that your Christmas wreath might contain wheat?
A study published in the Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology in 2007 found that more than 20 percent of food allergy reactions are triggered by hidden contaminants. Here are some surprising products allergens can sneak their way into:
1. Beanbags and Soft Toys
Crushed nutshells are sometimes used in beanbags and stuffed toys. If you have a child who is allergic to peanuts or tree nuts, choose toys made of a synthetic stuffing, like polyester fiberfill. The garden can also be a minefield: compost, potting soil and mulch can also contain peanut shells, so you might want to dig around to find nut-free planting products.
2. Soy Sauce
Rice based dishes, including sushi, might seem like an obvious choice if you follow a gluten-free diet, but beware of soy sauce; it is made by combining soy beans, wheat, salt and water. Instead, choose a gluten-free version of soy sauce. You may find you need to use less of it as it has a slightly stronger flavour.
3. Chewing Gum
If you are lactose intolerant look out for milk protein on chewing gum labels. For a healthy choice, free-from artificial sweeteners, go for a gum that contains a natural sugar, like xylitol. It won’t cause blood sugar spikes and is proven to prevent tooth decay.
4. Beauty Products
If you’re coeliac, even a small amount of gluten in your lipstick could trigger an allergic reaction. Unfortunately the use of wheat derivatives is widespread in skincare. Wheatgerm oil is found in moisturizers and anti-ageing products, wheat starch is used in mascara and hydrolyzed wheat starch is found in hair care products. While medical experts say there is no risk to coeliacs unless the customer gets the product in their mouth or an open sore, there is some anecdotal evidence that this is not always the case. To avoid risking a rash before a night out, read labels carefully or choose products marked ‘wheat-free’.
5. Canned Tuna
Allergen: Soy and Milk
Soy is sometimes added to tinned fish to give it flavour. It can go under names like yeast extract, soy protein, soybean oil, soy lecithin. Some canned tuna fish also contains the milk protein, casein. To avoid these allergy traps – and skip the endocrine-disrupting chemical BPA also found in canned food – choose fresh whenever possible and read labels with care.
It’s one of the best supplements for joints but it’s bad news if you’re allergic to seafood as it’s typically made of shellfish. Be sure to buy a vegetarian version if you’re allergic to seafood and check labels on magnesium supplements too as glucosamine is sometimes added to the formula.
If you are allergic to wheat you might think it’s enough to avoid Christmas pudding and gravy on Christmas day. But it pays to be wary of home décor too. Decorations, including Christmas wreaths can contain wheat, according to Vandana Sheth, a dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in America.
8. Worcestershire sauce
Fish is often a common ingredient in this favourite breakfast condiment. Fish sauce also features heavily in Asian cuisine so be cautious when eating out.