Education

Adults with Food Allergies

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Shopping Cooking Eating

Shopping, Cooking, and Eating with Food Allergies

Moving or living on your own can be exciting – and a little nerve-racking as food allergy responsibilities shift and put you in control of cooking and entertaining. Let us help you get comfortable with your new kitchen by offering a few tips.

Shopping

  • Learn how to read product labels, including “hidden” terms used for certain allergens.
    • You will generally want to avoid the bulk foods aisle and salad or hot food bars where cross-contact can occur.
    • No label, do not purchase or eat!
  • Get comfortable calling a manufacturer to confirm ingredients and cross-contact risk with your allergen, particularly if foods have generic ingredient lists such as “spices.”
    • Understand that labels are not complete. Precautionary labeling – such as “may contain,” “made on shared lines,” or “made in the same facility as” – are VOLUNTARY. A manufacturer does not have to label for potential allergen risk if allergens are not an actual ingredient in that product.
    • Manufacturers are only required to label packaged food products for the top eight allergens: peanut, tree nut, wheat, soy, egg, milk, fish, and shellfish.
    • New legislation will require another allergen – sesame – to be plainly labeled on all packaged foods by January 2023.
    • U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules on allergen labeling do not include alcohol products or personal care products, both of which can contain common food allergens.
  • Be wary of packaged foods sold at farmer’s markets, local shops, or other small producers who may use shared kitchens to create small-batch products. Ask about allergens in the foods as well as potential cross-contact. Fresh product is a safer purchase at a farmer’s market than something like baked goods.

Cooking

  • Confirm your house rules for allergens: Are they allowed in the house? In the kitchen? How will you keep your food and ingredients separate?
    • Consider maintaining an allergen-free shelf in the refrigerator and pantry if that is adequate for your needs.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, but be up front about it before you enter into a shared housing situation with friends. If your friend has a life-long love of PB&Js and you need them to keep peanut butter out of the house, that’s something that should be discussed before you sign a lease together.
  • Consider how you will manage microwaves, toasters, and other shared appliances. Will these be exposed to roommates’ foods that contain allergens? Will you need to have a personal toaster, microwave, and other appliances to prevent cross-contact?
  • Visit FAACT’s Pinterest Page to find Allergy-Friendly RecipesCultural Allergy Friendly Recipes, and the Kid’s with Food Allergies Safe Eats Allergen-Friendly Recipe database.
    • Always do your research for safe ingredients, read labels, and call manufacturers if needed.

Eating

  • If someone else is cooking for you, ask about food preparation and cross-contact. Ask to read the ingredient labels for every item used in meal preparation (including condiments and sauces).
    • Make sure you feel comfortable that the person cooking for you can keep you safe. If not, bring your own food or a dish to share, and bring your own serving utensils.
    • If it’s not inconvenient for your host, one approach to consider is helping with food preparation so you can read labels and prevent cross-contact as you go. (It can also be fun to cook together!)
  • Carry allergen-safe energy bars, alternate nut or seed butters and crackers, and other satiating foods when you are away from home. Keep them stocked in your backpack/purse or other bag that you use when you leave the house.
  • Keep a list of allergen-friendly restaurants and eateries handy for suggestions when a group of friends wants to eat out.
  • When in doubt, don’t eat it!
  • Even if you’re not planning to actually eat at a friend’s house or a restaurant, you can still be exposed to allergens. Be sure to carry two epinephrine auto-injectors and your Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Plan when you leave the house.