Written by Gaby Burt-D’Agnillo, BSc Nutrition Candidate
Reviewed by Andrea Miller MHSc, RD
May is Food Allergy Awareness Month in Canada. To raise awareness and educate the public, let’s talk about food allergies, symptoms, and common food allergens in Canada.
Food Allergy vs Food Intolerance
Food allergies are caused by a reaction of the body’s immune system to a specific food or food component, known as an allergen. If you have an allergy, your immune system is hypersensitive to a particular allergen and releases antibodies called immunoglobulins causing an allergic reaction. Food intolerances are also characterized by an abnormal response to a food product, but differ from food allergies as they do not involve antibodies and symptoms may not be as severe. Lactose intolerance is an example of a food intolerance.
Priority Food Allergens in Canada
Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), allergy associations, and the medical community have identified the key substances most frequently associated with food allergies and allergic-type reactions. These substances are often referred to as priority food allergens.
Eggs: Read food labels and avoid products with ingredients such as albumin, vitellin, lecithin, and prefix “ovo,” meaning “egg.”
Milk: A milk allergy involves an immune response and can be life-threatening. Lactose intolerance occurs when a person cannot digest lactose, a milk sugar, and is not life-threatening.
Mustard: It may be surprising that this allergen is on the Health Canada Priority Food Allergens list. Read food labels on condiments, sauces, salad dressings, and pickled products.
Peanuts: Peanuts are a member of the legume family, and are not related to tree nuts. Peanuts are a common allergen in anaphylactic reactions.
Tree Nuts: Tree nuts include almonds,