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Food Allergies

Which Foods Cause Allergic Reactions?

Last updated on:
22/03/2012

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Virtually any food can trigger an allergic response. However, studies have found that 80 to 90 percent of children with food allergies are allergic to one or more of these foods:

  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Milk
  • Wheat
  • Soy

Other common triggers include:

  • Tree nuts (such as almonds, pecans, cashews, Brazil nuts and walnuts)
  • Fish and shellfish (for example, crab and shrimp)

Various other foods and certain food additives and spices may cause allergic reactions.

Nice To Know:

Many people think that chocolate and corn contain common allergens. However, these foods rarely cause a genuine allergic reaction. In addition, the immune system never recognizes sugar as an allergen.

Cross-Reactions

Sometimes, an individual's allergic reaction to a particular food extends to other foods that contain similar allergens, a phenomenon called cross-reactivity. For example, someone who is allergic to peanuts may also have a problem with other legumes, such as soybeans or peas. However, the vast majority of food-allergic individuals rarely react to other legumes. In fact, more peanut-allergic children seem to be allergic to eggs or tree nuts than to other legumes. They often "lose" their egg allergy as they grow older.

Cross-reactions can develop between foods with allergens similar to those of other allergy-provoking substances, such as plant pollens. Researchers have found, for example, that some people who suffer hay fever symptoms when they inhale birch pollen also have an allergic reaction when they eat kiwi fruit or apples. The table below shows examples of these cross-reactions.

Allergy to these plant pollens may sometimes cause allergy to certain foods

Foods that can cause allergic symptoms in those allergic to certain plant pollens

Birch

Hazelnut (filbert)

Apple

Pear

Peach

Plum

Nectarine

Cherry

Carrots

Potato

Ragweed

Melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew)

Banana

Chamomile tea

Nice To Know:

Q. Can MSG or other food additives cause allergic reactions?

A. Many studies have shown that additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), the sugar substitute aspartame, and food dyes do not cause allergic reactions. Studies of MSG have shown that most symptoms attributed to MSG cannot be reproduced during blinded MSG challenges. However, in some sensitive people, food additives can cause an adverse reaction. This sensitivity is almost always an example of food intolerance, rather than true allergy.

 

 
 

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.