Allergies & Food Safety 101

by Julie DeLissio, Keen State Dietetic Intern

How YOU can keep others safe too!

What is the difference between food allergies, foodborne illnesses, and food intolerances?

  • A food allergy is the result of an autoimmune response that occurs when out immune system mistakes proteins in foods as foreign invaders. The most common food allergies are the big 8- shellfish, eggs, fish, tree-nuts, peanuts, milk, soy, and wheat. When one of these food is ingested by someone who has a food allergy, the body creates antibodies (IgE) that trigger the immune response and mediates the release of chemicals in the blood. These chemicals cause anaphylaxis, which is an acute immune response to an invader (antigen) that the body is hypersensitive to. These individuals can face life threatening symptoms if they ingest a food they are allergic to, such as nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, rash, low blood pressure, dizziness, and fainting. Initial treatment for an allergic reaction is an epi-pen, which injects epinephrine into the bloodstream. If you or a friend is experiencing an anaphylactic shock, call 911 or obtain immediate medical attention.
  • A food intolerance is typically a result of the bodies inability to produce an enzyme to break down sugars in foods. A common example of this is lactose intolerance. The body is not producing enough lactase to digest the sugar in milk, known as lactose. Reactions to intolerances are far less severe than an allergy, and typically include bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort.
  • A foodborne illness, such as salmonella, are typically caused by bacterial or viral infections. This can occur when food is not held at the appropriate temperature, cross contamination, or from a bacteria or virus reproducing. These are especially dangerous for those who are immunocompromised, or have a weakened immune system, such as infants, elders, and those already sick. The most common symptoms associated with a foodborne illness are fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Most people recover on their own after 1-3 days, however if the reaction is serious, it is advised to seek immediate medical intervention.

We have been living in a cross-contact nation!

  • As science evolves, there have been many notable, recently researched, food allergies that can put a person’s well-being at stake.
  • 1/20 people have a serious food allergy. About 5% of adults and 6-8% of children have an allergic reaction to foods.
  • Some common allergies or autoimmune diseases include Celiac Disease, which requires a person to eliminate the wheat protein, gluten, from their diet.
  • This means that an individual with Celiac Disease cannot eat wheat, barley, or rye products.
  • Wheat is in many other foods and beverages outside of bread, it can also be found in beer and soy sauce!
  • Some individuals with serious allergies cannot eat foods that are produced in the same facilities as other goods. The allergen can be in the oxygen in the factory, and act as an airborne contaminant. Certain people with Celiac may not be able to eat a food that is near or touching gluten.
  • We can limit attacks that these individuals have by using tongs and utensils in designated areas! If someone has a dairy allergy, it can be life threatening to use a utensil that touched cheese earlier.