18 Food Allergy myths debunked by a Dietitian [VIDEO]
Updated: Nov 20
Food allergies are more common than you think! Understanding the ins and outs of each food allergy can be very overwhelming, especially within a childcare or aged care setting when preparing food for a range of allergies.
We know all too well that googling something can leave you more confused than ever. So our amazing Accredited Practising Dietitian, Hannah Errington placed 18 popular food allergy myths under the microscope. Only using the latest evidence-based practice with the help of our food safety experts, let’s answer some common food allergy myths once and for all.
1. People who have allergies cannot have allergens in small amounts.
There is no safe amount to consume allergens for people who are allergic. For some people, even a tiny trace can still trigger a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. So, people with allergies need to avoid that allergen all together.
2. Unless there is a known allergy, no need to avoid common allergens when starting infants on solids.
As scary as the thought of your child having an allergic reaction may be, introducing infants to common allergens such as eggs and peanut butter actually reduces the likelihood of developing allergies.
However, it is important to remember when beginning to expose an infant to common allergens to still consider the safety aspect of introducing a baby to solids. While introducing children to nuts at a young age is a great tool in helping to prevent the development of a nut allergy, it's still important to consider how you're going to give this food to your baby as nuts pose a big chocking risk.
In Australia we recommend introducing solids at 6 months, and not before 4 months. You can begin to introduce nuts to a baby's diet by mixing nut butter with some warm water to make a puree or add ground nuts into a porridge or vegetable puree. Start with a small amount of the allergen and gradually increase.
3. Toddlers may not grow out of the egg, peanut and dairy allergies.
There is no guarantee here, some toddlers may grow out of their food allergies, but that is not true for all children. Many children grow into teenagers and adults that still have life-long allergies. Research shows nearly two thirds of children with a food allergy to cow’s milk, soy, wheat or egg have outgrown their allergy by age 4. But this is not the case for all children.
The chances are for Egg, Milk and Peanut allergies…
• 68% may grow out of egg Allergy by age 16
• 79% may grow out of milk allergy by age 16
• And only 10% may grow out of peanut allergy by the time they reach an adult
4. There are traces of nuts in cornflakes
Nuts are not an ingredient in a cornflake and are made from corn. Of course, there are some variations of cornflakes which have added nuts, such as Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes or other similar variations. While the standard plain cornflakes cereal is not made from nuts, they can still contain them. This is because of manufacturing process of corn flakes. Nuts are commonly listed as “may be present” on the box which is the reason why you need to check every box before purchasing if you have a nut allergy.
We’ve compiled a list of current products of cornflake and if they contain nuts. If your home, household or childcare centre needs to be nut-free, this is helpful guide.
*PLEASE NOTE this list was correct of the 17th May 2023. However, the stock of the shelves can be different. Always check the box before purchasing to ensure it is safe before consumption. Allergy listings change frequently, even if you have purchased a product before.
These products contain traces of nuts*
Kellogg’s Corn Flakes
Kellogg’s Corn Flakes Gluten Free
Macro Organic Corn Flakes
Coles Cereal Corn Flakes
These products currently do not contain traces of nuts*
Freedom Classic Corn Flakes (only contains Milk, Soy)
Coles I'M Free From Corn Flakes (May Contain SOY)
5. Playing with playdough is only damaging to children with coeliac disease if they consume it.
Playdough is made of flour, which contains gluten. The consumption of gluten should be completely avoided for anyone with coeliac disease. Playing with playdough is fine, however children may accidentally consume or touch their mouths when handling playdough or have something to eat and not wash their hands first. For someone with coeliac disease, a trace amount of gluten causes damage.
Therefore if your child has been diagnosed with coeliac disease, be extra cautious around playdough and ensure all little ones wash their hands thoroughly after play (including their fingernails).
6. Foods with allergens can be integrated back safely into a child’s diet but only under safe supervision by a medical practitioner
Children may consume certain allergens to assess their allergic reaction and to outgrow their allergy. Do not attempt without a trained medical professional. This needs to be done very carefully, under supervision.
7. There is no relationship to nut and sesame allergies.
A sesame allergen is different to nut allergens. A person may be allergic to nuts but can still eat sesame-containing foods and vice versa. Someone can be allergic to both sesame and nuts as well, but they are still two separate allergies just as nuts and dairy are different.
8. Gluten free products can have soy allergens.
Although gluten comes from wheat-based products, there are gluten-free products such as soy sauce that do contain soy. In Australia, all gluten free products that contain no detectable trace of gluten have the label ‘gluten free’ on the packaging. If someone has coeliac disease, ensuring you are purchasing ‘gluten free’ labelled products is essential. If you have coeliac disease and are allergic to soy, check the packaging label. If a packaged product contains soy, it will say Contains: Soy or May contain: Soy.
Gluten and soy are not connected:
A product containing gluten can contain soy
A gluten free product can contain soy
A product containing gluten may not contain soy
A gluten free product may not contain soy
All of the above depends on the ingredients of each product, where the products are packaged, where the ingredients come from, where the product is manufactured, what other products are manufactured or grown in the same place as the product or ingredients within that product. Always check the allergens listed on every product before purchasing.
9. Being in the same room as peanuts is not life threatening for someone who is allergic.
Touching, smelling or even inhaling peanuts may not cause severe harm. It is when the peanuts are ingested that can cause severe life-threatening reactions. Some less severe reactions may occur in the presence of peanuts though, so it is still best to keep people, especially children, away from traces of their allergens. They key point here is that it is not life threatening to be in the same space as a nut allergen for people who are allergic, but it is harmful to consume the allergen.
10. Purchasing the non-peanut flavour of a food item doesn’t mean it will be safe for someone with a peanut allergy (ie. Buying plain M&Ms vs Peanut M&Ms)
Purchasing a non-peanut option doesn’t necessarily mean it’s peanut free. Manufacturers may use the same machines to produce their products and that may cause cross contamination. It is best to look at the back of the product to ensure the company states there is no peanut allergy.
Check the label for Contain or May Contain and all allergens would be listed there.
11. Gluten does not contain nuts.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye-based products, therefore is completely separate and not found in nuts. Commonly families or nut-free childcare centres gluten-free products, as often these products may not contain nuts. This is not due to the lack of gluten, it is because gluten-free products have strict allergen controls measures in place and commonly don’t have other allergens in the same manufacturing facility. While it is common for many gluten-free labelled products to be nut free and have no traces of nuts, nuts are also found in many gluten free labelled products.
Please note not all gluten-free products are nut-free. Always read the label to ensure it is safe to consume if you have an allergy.
12. Eating a chocolate brownie with nuts next to someone who is allergic to nuts is not life-threatening.
If the person allergic to nuts is not consuming the brownie, they should not have a life-threatening reaction. Some people are sensitive to the close proximity of some allergens. For example, someone may have a non-life-threatening reaction just sitting next to you at the same table when you are eating your brownies with nuts, if they are allergic to nuts and hypersensitive. Being near an allergen will not be life-threatening but can still cause a reaction for some. Always check for what people are comfortable with.
Be especially cautious eating allergens around young children who are allergic! Young children are more likely to put their hands in their mouths or to not wash their hands wash thoroughly. Be wary of crumbs falling on the floor or around them, as if consumed this may cause a reaction.
13. When cooking with allergens, cleaning the dishes with a dishwasher before reusing it for someone who is allergic is not safe.
Allergens may still be present on cooking equipment, and these small traces can still cause a severe reaction in the person who is allergic. It is best to handwash, sanitise and air dry the equipment.
14. Cooked dairy is not ok to eat for people with a dairy allergy.
The proteins found in dairy are still present in cooked dairy. Therefore, an allergic reaction may still occur if cooked dairy is consumed. If someone is allergic to dairy, the allergen must be avoided to avoid a reaction.
15. Full cream milk does not have less allergens than skim milk.
Dairy allergens are usually due to the proteins which are still present in both milks. The only difference between full cream and skim milk is based on fat content and not the allergens. If someone is allergic to milk, both full cream and skim milk containing the allergen must be avoided to avoid a reaction.
16. Wheat free oats do not contain gluten.
Gluten is derived from wheat, barley and rye. Oats are naturally gluten free. However, regular oats are usually grown with or near where wheat is grown and cross contamination of gluten can occur for the oats.
There are some oats called wheat free oats which are the same as regular oats, but they are grown separately to wheat, meaning there is no cross contamination of wheat to these oats. That is why wheat free oats can be labelled as gluten free and regular oats are not labelled as gluten free.
Always look out for that gluten free label to ensure zero traces of gluten if you have coeliac disease.
17. You might not be able to buy gluten-free bread at your everyday local bakery.
It is very difficult for bakeries to clean all traces of gluten for those who require gluten-free bread. The best option is to visit the supermarket or a specialised gluten-free shop that sells gluten-free bread. Remember, even if gluten is not an ingredient, trace amounts can still be present from the manufacturing process in your local bakery. Always check the label and if there is no label, and the store is not a solely gluten free store, find somewhere else to be safe if you have coeliac disease.
18. Allergies are not only developed at a younger age.
Allergies can also develop during adulthood, even if you have been safely consuming that allergen your whole life. The most common allergies for adults to develop later in life include:
It is not known exactly why some adults develop new allergies later in life, some of the leading research on the topic suggests it may be related to not being exposed to that allergy as a child, a change in environment, or changes to the immune system.
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