This year’s annual National Food Safety Month spotlights the increasing importance of food allergen awareness throughout the month of September.
Food allergy is a serious medical condition affecting up to 15 million people in the United States, including 1 in 13 children. Whether you’re newly diagnosed or brushing up on the facts, learning all you can about the disease is the key to staying safe and living well with food allergies.
What is food allergy? The job of the body’s immune system is to identify and destroy germs (such as bacteria or viruses) that make you sick. A food allergy results when the immune system mistakenly targets a harmless food protein – an allergen – as a threat and attacks it.
Unlike other types of food disorders, such as intolerances, food allergies are “IgE mediated.” This means that your immune system produces abnormally large amounts of an antibody called immunoglobulin E — IgE for short. IgE antibodies fight the “enemy” food allergens by releasing histamine and other chemicals, which trigger the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
A food allergy should not be confused with a food intolerance or other non-allergic food reactions. Food intolerance refers to an abnormal response to a food or additive, but it differs from an allergy in that is does not involve the immune system. For example, people who have recurring gastrointestinal problems when they drink milk may say they have a milk allergy. But they really may be lactose intolerant.
Some food allergies can be outgrown. Studies have shown that the severity of food allergies can change throughout a person’s life and there is no cure for food allergies. The best way for people to protect themselves is by avoiding the food allergen. Be informed and ask questions about food preparation at restaurants and read food labels. More tips and information can be found at…http://www.foodallergy.org and www.foodsafetymonth.com.
Foods labels must clearly state whether the food contains a major food allergen. A major food allergen is defined as one of the following foods or food groups, or is an ingredient that contains protein derived from one of the following foods or food groups: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts such as almonds, walnuts and pecans, soybeans, wheat, fish, shellfish such as crab, lobster and shrimp. These foods or food groups account for 90 percent of all food allergies in the United States.
The following recipe is provided by Food Allergy Research and Education (formerly The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network). It is free of milk, eggs, peanut, soy and nuts.
Lori Wuellner is a Wyandotte County Extension agent, Family and Consumer Sciences, K-State Research and Extension, 1216 N. 79th St., Kansas City, Kan. Telephone 913-299-9300, email email@example.com.
Apple Cinnamon Bars
Makes 24 (2-inch squares)
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup milk-free margarine, softened
2 ½ cups quick oats
1 cup flour
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 small Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13 x 9 pan with nonstick spray. Set aside. In a large bowl cream together brown sugar and margarine until smooth. Beat in oats, flour, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Fold in applesauce and apples. Pat mixture into prepared pan. Bake 35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in pan and cut into bars.
Nutritional information per serving: Calories 145, Carbohydrates 26 g., Protein 3 g., Fat 3 g., Saturated Fat 0.91 g., Fiber 1.56 g., Sodium 294.97 mg.
(Source: Food Allergy Research and Education; National Restaurant Association; FDA Consumer Health Information)