Where are Allergens Hidden?

As manufacturers and consumers, we often emphasise allergens that we know in the eight common regulated food allergens in South Africa; but how alert are consumers to innocent-looking food products that contain hidden allergens? And what about non-food products that could also pose a risk, such as wheat in children’s play dough?

Food products

We come across endless choices daily in terms of what we should eat. Yet to avoid an allergic reaction, we need to consider all the possibilities as to what food products could possibly contain allergens.

Marzipan generally contains ground almonds and almond paste. It is used in biscuits or rolled out into thin sheets and glazed for icing cakes. Vegan cheese is usually made from soya; nuts, such as cashews and macadamias; and vegetables, such as coconut oil. But bear in mind that other vegan cheeses may be made from agar, tapioca, peas and arrowroot.

Mortadella is an Italian sausage or ham made of ground cured pork and pork fat, and flavoured with ground black pepper, myrtle berries and pistachios.

All of which explains why it is important to read the labels when you have a food allergy.

Non-food products

Unexpected allergens in non-food items also pose the risk of allergic reaction. Some people are highly sensitive to certain allergens, such as peanuts, and a mere touch to the skin can cause a reaction. Play dough containing wheat; bird feeders containing peanuts, nuts, wheat and milk; and stuffed toys filled with crushed or ground shells are all sources of almost imperceptible amounts of allergens.

Pet food, which is often accessible to small children, may also be a source of hidden allergens, as there could be shrimp in fish food flakes; eggs or fish in cat kibble; casein (milk) in bone treats; and peanut butter inside dog chew toys.

Source: FACTS – Food & Allergy Consulting & Testing Services.  FACTS can assist with allergen testing. Have a look at our testing catalogue, and contact us for more information on regulatory and labelling services.