The prevalence of food allergies has grown dramatically in recent years with a jaw dropping thirty-two million Americans now estimated as having food allergies. The onset of food allergies can happen suddenly and occur in adolescence or adulthood. There are eight main food allergens that are estimated to account for the majority of food allergy reactions in the United States: fish, crustacean shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, wheat, and soy. One of the more common food allergies affecting Americans is a seafood allergy of fish or crustacean shellfish.
What is a seafood allergy?
In general, a food allergy is a serious medical condition caused by an individual being exposed to a food that initiates a detrimental immune response. In the midst of an allergic reaction, the body’s immune system attacks a normally harmless food protein or allergen. The exposure of this allergen can cause symptoms that span from a mild case of hives to anaphylaxis. To date there is no cure for food allergies, and in most cases, patients are advised to avoid the allergen and to carry epinephrine at all times in case of accidental exposure.
When it comes to a seafood allergy, this category can be broken into two main groups, fish and shellfish. There are estimated to be more than twenty thousand species of fish, and individuals who are allergic to one type of fish are commonly allergic to others as well. Although individuals of any age can be diagnosed with a fish or shellfish allergy, these allergies are commonly experienced for the first time as an adult and are seldom outgrown.
Shellfish are typically broken down into the category of a crustacea or a mollusk. Crustacea generally include seafood such as lobster, shrimp, and crab. Mollusks usually include seafood such as scallops, clams, oysters, and mussels. Although both shellfish categories can cause allergic reactions, crustacea generally cause more shellfish reactions and can be more severe.
Common Foods to Avoid for a Seafood Allergy
With more than twenty thousand fish species, there a number of fish that could trigger an allergic reaction. However, some of the most common offenders usually include:
- Mahi Mahi
Avoiding whole fish is crucial if you have a seafood allergy, however, fish protein is an ingredient in some unsuspecting foods and sauces, including Caesar dressing/salad, Worcestershire sauce, barbeque sauce, bouillabaisse, and some ethnic foods.
For those diagnosed with a shellfish allergy, a board certified allergist will often recommend they avoid consuming crawfish, crabs, lobster, shrimp, prawns, krill and barnacles, just to name a few. Depending on an individual’s specific allergy, the allergist may also recommend they avoid food such as clams, mussels, cuttlefish, octopus, scallops, snails, and squid.
Avoidance of whole shellfish is a must for those diagnosed with a shellfish allergy, but this allergen can also be found in flavor enhancers such as fish stock, seafood flavoring, bouillabaisse, and glucosamine.
Tips on Eating Safely
Those with food allergies may be advised to avoid dining in seafood restaurants. While seafood restaurants often offer a non-seafood option such as steak, individuals with seafood allergies could still be at risk from dangerous cross contamination and exposure to fish protein, which can be in the steam coming from cooked fish.
When preparing food at home, people with food allergies should always pay close attention to ingredient lists and allergy warning labels. While these practices do help, it may also be prudent to follow up directly with a company if you have any questions about possible cross contamination.
When eating food prepared outside the home, individuals with food allergies should be particularly vigilant with inquiries regarding ingredients in dishes, safe allergy practices, and possible opportunities for cross contamination. A personal conversation with a restaurant manager and chef allows an individual to convey the seriousness of their food allergy and gauge the knowledge of the staff.
Although food allergies are extremely serious, with proper research and planning, individuals can enjoy a full life and even dine out or participate in meal delivery services.
Meal Services and Food Allergies
Since most Americans eat a minimum of three times a day, figuring out what to safely eat each day can be time consuming. On top of the time required to research safe recipes to eat, a trip to the grocery store is usually needed, along with sufficient time to cook and prepare the meal. For all these reasons and more, the first few weeks and months of a food allergy diagnosis can seem overwhelming.
As an individual with a seafood allergy becomes more familiar with what they can safely eat, they are likely to establish a routine that serves their new lifestyle well. However, especially during particularly busy seasons of life, the time required to research, shop, and cook may not be feasible on a daily basis. A home delivery meal service may be the perfect solution to these seasons of life.
A reputable meal delivery service should be willing to talk with prospective clients one on one about any dietary restrictions or allergy accommodations they may need. When visiting with the manager or head chef, take that opportunity to verify their knowledge and understanding of your food allergy, including safe meal preparation and cross contamination avoidance. Ask what process the company has for preparing allergy safe meals.
As a general rule, most healthy meal delivery services tend to use primarily whole foods. This dedication to preparing fresh gourmet meals with whole foods usually limits the places allergens can hide, such as sauces or flavoring.
All fresh gourmet meals from the service should ideally be fully cooked, vacuum sealed, and delivered right to the customer’s doorstep. Each meal should be labeled individually with an exhaustive ingredient label and appropriate allergy warnings.
The only time required for enjoying these custom prepared meals should be logging online to choose which safe meals the customer wants to try, and then the minimal amount of time required to warm it.
Before choosing which meal delivery service is right for you, be sure to read the fine print. No customer should sign a contract that requires a long-term commitment. Be wary of those that do as they should be willing to let their delicious pre-made meals and delivery service speak for itself without requiring a commitment.
By diligently researching and planning, people with a seafood allergy can easily enjoy delicious foods made fresh and full of flavor.