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Food Allergens Show Up in Unexpected Places

Street vendors, fairs replacing trans fats with peanut oil -- all can spell trouble

SUNDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- While it may be hard to resist the sight and smell of food at summer festivals and fairs, people with food allergies need to be extra vigilant with such food, advises the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

"There are many questions about ingredients, preparations and possible cross-contamination that if left unanswered could lead to an allergic reaction," Dr. Amal H. Assa'ad, chairman of the academy's Adverse Reactions to Food Committee, said in a prepared statement.

Each year in the United States, up to 150 people die from anaphylaxis caused by food allergies, according to the AAAAI. Most people who experience allergic reactions to food experience skin irritation, asthma symptoms or gastrointestinal upset.

The 12 million Americans with food allergies should remember that food allergens can be present in unexpected places. For example, in an effort to eliminate trans fats, many vendors have started using peanut oil or soybean oil in their fryers.

The AAAI offers the following tips for avoiding serious allergic reactions to food:

  • Get checked to see if you have food allergies.
  • Avoid foods to which you're allergic.
  • When eating away from home, always ask about the ingredients in food items and inform party hosts, service staff or vendors of the severity of your allergy.
  • Carefully read all food labels.
  • If you've had a severe reaction in the past, you should always carry self-injectable epinephrine.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about food allergies.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, news release, June 2008

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