Dealing with a food sensitivity
Avoiding the offending food is the key to controlling any food sensitivity and those people who are at risk must avoid any form of contact with the foods they are allergic or intolerant to.
Read the labels
EU legislation now recognises 14 allergen-containing foods as being responsible for the majority of food sensitivity reactions in Europe. Under EU law, the 14 major allergens must be indicated on the label if they are deliberate ingredients in pre-packed foods. Food products manufactured for coeliacs and those with a gluten intolerance are labelled either ‘gluten-free’ or ‘very low gluten’, depending on the final amount of gluten in the product. Any food product that is shown to have a gluten content below a certain threshold (20 mg/kg) can be labelled as ‘gluten-free’.
Check all products - not just food!
Checking labels also applies to non-food commodities such as cosmetics that may contain the allergen. For instance, peanut oil and egg protein are used in the manufacture of cosmetics and other household products including medicines while fruit and vegetable extracts are used in the manufacture of cosmetics.
Look out for ‘May contain’ statements
The EU legislation does not cover allergens accidentally present as a result of cross contamination at some point in the manufacturing process but this hazard has been recognised by manufacturers who have chosen to highlight the risk in advisory warning statements such as ”may contain ____”. This information is usually found on food packaging in addition to the ingredients list but it is not required by law. These statements should only be applied where the likelihood of allergen contamination has been properly assessed by the manufacturer and the risk cannot be reduced or eliminated. Advisory warning statements should not be ignored.
Seek medical treatment
There are no widely-available medical treatments to prevent someone having an allergic or intolerant reaction. The symptoms of a food intolerant reaction usually clear up with time once the person removes the food from their diet. However, an allergic reaction must be treated immediately either through the use of antihistamines or, if the reaction is serious, by injection with adrenaline (epinephrine) followed by admission to hospital. These adrenaline products (known as ‘autoinjectors’) are marketed under different brand names such as Epipen and Anapen.
For further medical information, click here.