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Cooking with Food Allergies

The idea of cooking for someone with a food allergy can be incredibly daunting. The list of what ingredients to NOT include seems endless; but learning to cook for a food allergy can be easier than you think.

The "big eight" allergies --- dairy, wheat, soy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, and fish --- are simple to find recipes for.  You can also find recipes free of dairy, eggs, fish, and shellfish by looking in any good vegan cookbook or website.

Food Allergies

Finding recipes for multiple food allergies or for other food allergies is more difficult.  Check out some of these online resources:

As useful as recipes written for allergies are, we often want to adapt favorite family recipes or try a new recipe featured in your favorite magazine.  There are ingredients on the market that are specifically marketed as safe substitutes for most common allergens and which yield  great results!

Beyond basic principles of food safety, anyone with a food allergy (or one cooking for someone with a food allergy) needs to be aware of the principle of cross-contamination.  Cross-contamination occurs when unsafe, allergenic foods touch otherwise safe foods.  This can occur directly, but it can also occur when foods share a utensil, storage receptacle, cutting board, pan or serving dish, without the utensil or cooking implement being washed thoroughly between uses.

to avoid cross-contamination at home, make sure that allergens are kept away from safe foods and  whenever possible, are cooked using different pans and utensils. 

Wheat is one of the most common food allergies in the United States and is therefore covered under the food allergen labeling law (FALCPA).  Manufacturers must place an allergy warning on foods that contain wheat on ingredient labels in plain English. 

In addition to reading the ingredients list on a food item, it is also important to read the entire package.  For the example of wheat allergies, some items will hold a disclaimer "may contain traces of wheat" or "made in the same facility as wheat containing foods". In these cases, the company is giving the choice to the consumer whether or not to consume the food.  While it does not necessarily mean the item contains wheat or other allergenic food, there is a chance that it may.  Therefore, it you are highly sensitive to wheat or the listed allergenic food, you may want to avoid those products.  

Some allergenic foods go by other common names.  In the example of wheat allergies again, it is a good idea to look for the following "wheat", containing ingredients on their labels.  Other common names for "wheat": 

  • Bulgur (bulghar)
  • Durum, durum flour, durum wheat
  • Einkorn
  • Emmer
  • Enriched, white and whole-wheat flour
  • Farina
  • Flour (all-purpose, cake, enriched, graham, high protein or high gluten, pastry)
  • Farro
  • Fu
  • Graham flour
  • Kamut
  • Seitan
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
  • Sprouted wheat
  • Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)
  • Triticum aestivum
  • Wheat (bran, germ, gluten, grass, malt, starch)
  • Wheat berries
  • Wheatgrass

 

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