Ingredient and labeling issues associated with allergenic foods


Steve L. Taylor, PhD, University of Nebraska
Food Allergy Research & Resource Program
Department of Food Science & Technology
Lincoln, Nebraska 68583-0919


Foods contain a wide range of food ingredients that serve numerous technical functions. Per capita consumer exposure to most of these food ingredients is rather low with a few notable exceptions such as sugar and starch. Some food ingredients including edible oils, hydrolyzed proteins, lecithin, starch, lactose, flavors and gelatin may, at least in some products, be derived from sources commonly involved in IgE-mediated food allergies. These ingredients should be avoided by consumers with allergies to the source material if the ingredient contains detectable protein residues. Other food ingredients, including starch, malt, alcohol and vinegar, may be derived in some cases from wheat, rye or barley, the grains that are implicated in the causation of celiac disease. If these ingredients contain gluten residues, then they should be avoided by celiac sufferers. A few food ingredients are capable of eliciting allergic sensitization, although these ingredients would be classified as rarely allergenic. These ingredients include carmine, cochineal extract, annatto, tragacanth gum and papain. Food manufacturers should declare the presence of allergenic food ingredients in the ingredient listings on product labels so that allergic consumers can know to avoid these potentially hazardous products.