May 9, 2013

Hidden Allergens: reading labels on everyday products, even if they are not edible!

As parents of food allergic kiddos, we are told to read the labels of all food items before feeding them to our child. When you think of food allergies, you probably think of the "Top 8" allergens that are the most well-known as ingredients in food items. Milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish are the most common allergens (although anything could potentially be an allergen).

What about non-food products though? Do we ever stop to think about them? It seems strange to think you need to look at the labels of your shampoo, hand soap and toothpaste, but allergens are there...seemingly hidden within the list of nearly-impossible-to-pronounce ingredients.

I made a trip to the grocery store today just to see how common this really is. In a matter of about 15 minutes of label-reading, I found 7 products (in just one personal care aisle):

Shampoo and conditioner containing milk protein, egg (albumen) and coconut;

hand soaps containing milk protein;

and body washes containing soy, coconut, milk protein and almond. I am positive that there are many, many more of these products out there that my little experiment didn't even come close to touching on.

These days, out of curiosity, I read labels on everything because I have OCD, even if I'm not planning to buy it. Reading food labels can be difficult at first, but with some practice it becomes second nature. Now add in the difficulty of remembering to check hygiene products, art supplies, even pet foods. It can be exhausting!

Thankfully, there are helpful resources that can make it easier. Kids with Food Allergies, Inc. has a really great chart of items to think about when it comes to products used in school and child care centers. I like to print the list and give it to our providers to refer back to.

Here is a detailed list of possible food allergens in non-food products by Michele A. Fagan from an article in RDH Magazine (read that article here).

"Another point of awareness is for products that are nonfoods, but that may contain food allergens. Be sure to read labels on everyday products even if they are not edible."

• Soaps and hand sanitizers - may contain soy, milk, and nut oils
• Shampoos and other hair care products and dyes - can contain wheat, almond, and other nut oils and soy protein
• Hand and body lotions - may contain milk, soy, coconut, tree nut, or sesame and arachis (which is derived from peanut)
• Suntan lotion - can contain arachidyl glucoside and arachidyl alcohol (arachis refers to peanut)
• Makeup - also may include wheat and sesame oil
• Medications and supplements - gel cap formulations may contain soy, peanut oil, or canola oil
• Play-Doh - contains wheat
• Fruit and vegetable rinses - many contain starch, which can come from wheat, potato, corn, and rice
• Stuffed toys or chairs - some of the stuffing in bean bag chairs or stuffed animals can include the shells of ground peanuts or tree nuts
• Pet food and bird seed - can contain wheat, peanut, milk, and eggs
• Landscaping soil - may contain peanut hulls
• Rolling pins - some may have been treated with nut oil

There may also be food allergens in the dental products we use. You can always refer to websites, or call the manufacturer if you have any questions about ingredients. Here are some examples:

• Recaldent is a milk derivative (may be listed as casein) - found in GC America's MI paste, toothpastes, and some forms of Trident gum.

• Polishing paste - contains gluten (causes gastrointestinal disorder)
• Fluorides - can contain gluten or nut oils
• Topical anesthesia - contains fruit flavorings
• Propofol - general anesthesia that contains egg protein
• Cements - eugenol is derived from oil of cloves
• Nitrous oxide - does not specifically contain egg, but it has a substance that has a similar molecular structure to eggs and reactions have been reported