May Is National Food Allergy Awareness Month

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It’s May, and that means it is National Food Allergy Awareness Month! Chances are you or someone you know has a food allergy.

What Is a Food Allergy?

When a person who has a food allergy is exposed to a food allergen, a harmful immune response is triggered (allergic reaction). The immune system attacks proteins within the food consumed, triggering the reaction.

Symptoms of Food Allergies

  • Tingling in the Mouth
  • Swelling of the Lips, Tongue, and/or Throat
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Hives
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of Consciousness
  • Death

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to food can range from mild to severe, including anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is sudden in onset and can even cause death.

Are Food Allergies Increasing Over Time?

  • Food Allergies are on the rise with the Center for Disease Control & Prevention reporting a 50% increase in prevalence of food allergies in children from 1997 and 2011.
  • Peanut allergy prevalence tripled in U.S. Children between 1997 and 2008.
  • 32 Million people in the United States have food allergies. (1 in 10 adults and 1 in 13 children have a food allergy in the United States.)

Food Allergy Labels

Did you know more than 170 foods have been known to cause allergic reactions? In 2004, congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Act (FALCPA) designating eight foods as major allergens: milk, eggs, fish, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. At the beginning of this year (January 1,2023) The big 8 major food allergens gained an additional allergen: Sesame. These 9 foods are responsible for 90% of all food allergic reactions.

Food Label

Check the ingredient list on foods to view if allergens are present. The label also may say ” Contains:” Followed by major allergens such as milk,soy, and wheat.

Avoid Dangerous Food Allergy Situations

  • Do not use the same serving utensils for across many foods (cross-contamination).
  • Be aware that buffet tables are at an increased risk for cross contamination.
  • Desserts are a likely place to find food allergens.
  • Read labels to identify food ingredients that may cause a reaction.
  • Ask about ingredients and cooking methods used if you have a food allergy.
  • Ask guests if they have food allergens when planning to host a meal.

Treating a Serious Allergic Reaction

If a person is having an anaphylactic reaction, the drug epinephrine (also called adrenaline) is the only effective treatment according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). Epinephrine Auto Injectors are available by prescription and those who have severe allergies are likely to carry them. It is beneficial to familiarize yourself with how to use them in an emergency situation, even if you do not have a food allergy. Seek emergency medical assistance if someone is having a severe reaction.


FDA: Food Allergens


University of Minnesota Extension