Prairie Fare: Try the Food Allergen Quiz | Columnists

Julie Garden-Robinson’s NDSU Extension

In the past two weeks, I have interacted with people who are allergic to nuts, lactose, gluten, soy, or milk.

In most cases, I knew about allergies and intolerance in advance. However, in one case, I did not. Luckily, she was an adult well versed in what ingredients to avoid in our taste tests.

For children, detecting food allergies can be difficult and often requires medical testing.

Sometimes allergy symptoms can be quite mild. People with certain types of allergies may experience a rash, itching in the mouth or ears, nasal congestion, sneezing, or a strange taste in the mouth.

For example, you may think children have an ear infection or a cold when they pull at their ears, have a runny nose, or sneeze. In some cases, these may be symptoms of mild food allergies.

For others, allergic symptoms can be severe and even life-threatening. An allergic reaction activates our immune system. Serious symptoms include shortness of breath, swelling of the tongue, chest pain and/or loss of consciousness.

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Anaphylaxis is the worst case scenario. Signs of anaphylaxis can include constriction of the airways, swelling of the throat, difficulty breathing, rapid pulse, and loss of consciousness. Without prompt emergency treatment, anaphylaxis could be fatal. An epinephrine (adrenaline) auto-injector can be a life-saving medical intervention.

Do you know someone who is allergic to certain foods? Most of us do.

In fact, 32 million Americans have food allergies according to some researchers. This represents approximately one in 10 adults and one in 13 children.

Food packages are labeled so you know what allergens are present and can avoid consuming the food. Many restaurants also list which recipes contain allergens.

If you are preparing food for someone with food allergies, you must avoid “cross-contamination” of the allergenic substance from one food item or equipment to another.

Whether or not you have food allergies, knowing how to recognize food allergies and how to plan for family or friends is essential.

Try these questions about food allergens and intolerances. The answers follow.

1. Lactose intolerance is not due to an allergic reaction. Which food component of milk is difficult to digest for people with lactose intolerance?

2. Where would you find food allergy information in a food product?

In or after the ingredient list.

On the Nutrition Facts label.

In the recipe suggestions on the packaging.

3. What is true of the statements on the packaging that say “may contain (allergen)”? The packaging may also state “processed in a facility that also uses tree nuts.”

These are required by law.

These are not required by law.

These may be due to cross contamination within a food processing plant.

These statements can be used as a substitute for good manufacturing practices.

4. How many foods have been identified as causing food allergies in susceptible people, according to the Food and Drug Administration?

5. Name the eight allergens currently required on food labels.

6. Bonus question: In January 2023, a new allergen will be added to food labels containing this ingredient. What is the allergen?

How did you do? Here are the answers :

b. People who are lactose intolerant have difficulty digesting milk sugar or lactose, which is a carbohydrate.

a. Look for “Contains (allergen)” right after the ingredient list or in parentheses after the food in the ingredient list. An example is “Lecithin (soy)”.

BC. The mentions “May contain” are not obligatory. Sometimes the same equipment is used in food manufacturing plants for different foods and can lead to cross contamination.

vs. 160 foods have been identified as allergenic.

Milk, tree nuts, eggs, peanuts, fish, wheat, shellfish and soy are the eight allergens currently required on food labels.

Sesame must appear on food labels from January 2023.

For more information, search online for “NDSU Extension Allergens” to find resources on many of the major allergens. Documents include “exchanges” and receipts.

Have you ever tried tofu? Tofu is a protein-rich soy food available in several consistencies ranging from soft (silky) to extra firm.

This dip was the hit of a hands-on food preparation course. The North Dakota Soybean Council recipe contains soy, of course, and milk allergens. We used low fat ingredients to cut calories, but you can substitute high fat ingredients.

Artichoke Soy Spinach Dip

1 pound silken tofu, crumbled

1 pound low-fat cream cheese, cubed

½ teaspoon ground pepper

1 pound frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained

1 can (15 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained, coarsely chopped

½ cup green onions, chopped

Parmesan cheese, grated, to garnish (optional)

Using a mixer, beat the tofu until smooth. Combine cream cheese, mayonnaise and pepper in a mixing bowl. Stir in spinach, artichokes and green onions. Spread the mixture evenly in a 9 x 13 inch pan. Sprinkle Parmesan on top, if desired. Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes or until top is bubbly and golden brown. Serve with tortillas or crackers.

Makes 25 servings. Each serving contains 70 calories, 3.5 grams (g) of fat, 4 g of protein, 6 g of carbohydrates, 1 g of fiber and 270 milligrams of sodium.

Julie Garden-Robinson is an NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist and Professor.

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