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This difference between the clinically proven prevalence of food allergy and the public perception of the problem is in part due to reactions called "food intolerances" rather than food allergies. A true food allergy is an abnormal response to a food triggered by the body's immune system. Food intolerances, such as glucose intolerance, lactose intolerance, and reactions to food additives like sulfites, can cause symptoms that can resemble those of a food allergy. However, intolerances do not trigger the body's immune response as in a true food allergy.
It is extremely important for people who have true food allergies to identify them and prevent allergic reactions to food because these reactions can cause devastating illness and, in some cases, be fatal. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that food allergies cause 30,000 cases of anaphylaxis, 2,000 hospitalizations and 150 deaths annually.
Allergies are an inherited predisposition. Generally, people with a food allergy come from families in which allergies are common - not necessarily food allergies, but perhaps hay fever, asthma, or hives.
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In adults, the most common foods to cause allergic reactions include: shellfish such as shrimp, crayfish, lobster, and crab; peanuts (a legume that is one of the chief foods to cause severe anaphylaxis, a sudden drop in blood pressure that can be fatal if not treated quickly); tree nuts such as walnuts; fish; wheat; soy and eggs.
In children, the pattern is somewhat different. The most common food allergens that cause problems in children are eggs, milk, and peanuts. Adults usually don't lose their allergies, but children can sometimes outgrow them. Children are more likely to outgrow allergies to milk or soy than allergies to peanuts, fish, or shrimp.
The foods that adults or children react to are those foods they eat often. In Japan, for example, rice allergies are more common. In Scandinavia, codfish allergies are more common.
Symptoms of a reaction to a food allergy can include one or more of the following:
The Michigan Modified Food Code requires the person in charge to be able to describe the eight foods identified as major food allergens and the symptoms that major food allergens could cause in a sensitive individual. The eight major food allergens are:
In addition, food safety certified managers at food service establishments (e.g., restaurant, school or hospital inspected by a Michigan local health department) shall do both of the following:
See more information about the allergen requirements.