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It’s very important for people with severe food allergies to avoid the foods they're allergic too. For them, eating even a small amount of nuts or seafood could be life-threatening.

Eight foods account for 90 percent of all food allergy reactions. In the industry, they're often referred to as the Big 8.

In 2004, The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act was put in place to make life a little bit easier and safer for these folks. It mandates that food labels must declare whether or not a product may contain allergens from milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. You may have noticed this information on packaged foods, right underneath the list of ingredients in bold type. It might say something like: Contains milk and eggs.

Although over 200 different food allergens have been identified, these eight foods account for 90 percent of all food allergy reactions. In the industry, they're often referred to as the “Big 8.” But in fact, allergies to some of the Big 8 are a lot more common than others.

How common are the most common food allergies?





According to a new review in the Journal Nutrition Today, milk or dairy is by far the most commonly diagnosed food allergy, affecting 2 percent of the adult population, or one out of every 50 people. The percentage of people who report being lactose intolerant is quite a bit higher. But lactose intolerance, which is a reduced ability to digest the lactose sugar in milk, is not a true allergy. Allergies are almost always reactions to proteins, and people who are allergic to milk are usually allergic to the milk protein casein.

Milk or dairy is by far the most commonly diagnosed food allergy, affecting 2 percent of the adult population, or one out of every 50 people.

Shellfish is the next most common food allergen, affecting 1 in 65. Fish, nuts, eggs, wheat, and peanuts all affect fewer than 1 in 100 people. Interestingly, soy allergy is only believed to affect 1 in 1000 people. So, the Big 8 is really more like the Big 7 plus 1. The inclusion of soy in the list of common allergens may create the impression that soy allergy is much more common than it is.

Many consumers also misinterpret required allergen labeling to mean that these foods should be avoided even by people who don’t have an allergy. This impression is reinforced by front-of-package labeling claiming that products are “free” of various ingredients. While this is helpful information for people who have a reason to avoid those ingredients, it doesn't necessarily...

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