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Tag: Food Allergy

Understanding “May Contain” Labeling Risks

According to an IFIC survey, 45% of consumers manage food allergies by reading labels. Photo: USDA Flickr

It is estimated that 32 million Americans have a food allergy. You probably know someone who has a food allergy. There are many theories as to the rise in food allergies. The bottom line is, self-management and reading labels are key in preventing food allergy reactions.

Food manufacturers are required by the FDA to label products containing any of the eight major food allergens either as an ingredients or from potential cross-contamination. They may also use precautionary labeling such as “may contain,” “manufactured in a facility that uses,” or “processed in a facility that uses” statements. So the food may or may not have a food allergen which leads to confusion.

Consumers must educate themselves by learning alternative names for food allergens, avoid products with no precautionary labeling, imported foods without specific labeling, and learning from others who have food allergies.

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Sesame Allergy: A Growing Concern

Sesame seeds range in color from white to black. This bread has white and black sesame seeds.

Those little seeds on top of hamburger buns look good, but to some people they are a health hazard. An estimated 1.5 million Americans have a sesame allergy. Should it be the ninth most common food allergy?

Sesame is found not only on top of buns but in many Asian dishes and in hummus made with tahini paste. Allergic symptoms include mild skin irritations and hives to anaphylactic reactions. Currently, the FDA does not require it on food labels. One state, Illinois, has made it a requirement. Other countries such as Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan require sesame allergen labeling. It may be in the near future for the U.S.

If you suspect you are allergic to sesame, take steps to find out for sure. See a board-certified allergist for diagnosis. Read food labels, all of them! Keep a food log to track what you eat. This is very helpful when seeing a doctor.

For more information and list of foods that may contain sesame, see


What is Alpha-gal Allergy?

Beef Kabobs
Photo: USDA Flickr

The next time you work outside or do outdoor recreation, be aware of ticks and protect yourself from tick bites. The Lone Star tick has been linked to causing allergic reactions after eating red meat.

The Lone Star tick is a vector that can spread disease. Mosquitos and fleas are other insects that spread disease. The Alpha-gal molecule is carried in the saliva of Lone Star ticks. People bit by this tick can become sensitive and produce the immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody. Unlike typical food allergies, which is a reaction to protein, this is a reaction to the carbohydrate galactose-α-1,3-galactose. This carbohydrate is found in most mammals, such as red meat animals. It can also be in products made from mammals. It is not found in poultry or fish.

Symptoms include rash, hives, difficulty breathing, drop in blood pressure, dizziness, fainting, nausea, and severe stomach pain. These symptoms can occur in 3-6 hours after eating red meat.

The Alpha-gal allergy can be severe, and potentially life-threatening. See a healthcare provider immediately for care.

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Allergen in Red Meat Associated with Heart Disease

Lone Star Tick

Diets high in saturated fat may lead to heart disease. But, another potential factor could be a cause of heart disease, an allergen in red meat.

Research done at the University of Virginia has found a specific allergen called galactose-α-1,3-galactose, a sugar in red meat which can cause sensitivity in people bitten by the lone star tick. Prior research showed hints that this linkage was possible. Now, the specific allergen has been identified.

The specific antibody blood marker to this allergen has shown higher levels of fatty deposits inside arteries which could be associated with heart disease.

As a reminder, this is just a preliminary association. More research must be done to show that testing for this allergen will be helpful in managing heart disease.

Lone Star tick