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Becoming Allergy Aware!

We all eat. Yet what one person is able to eat is not always the same as another. For many people in Canada, thinking about what ingredients are in food and avoiding specific foods is the difference between a potential life or death situation.

By: Kelly Atyeo-Fick, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec.

We all eat.  Yet what one person is able to eat is not always the same as another.  For many people in Canada, thinking about what ingredients are in food and avoiding specific foods is the difference between a potential life or death situation.  This is the reality for the almost 2.5 million Canadians who have at least 1 food allergy.1


This is a serious allergic reaction that happens quickly and may cause death.  People who are at risk of anaphylaxis from specific foods typically carry medications at all times in case an allergic reaction takes place.1

When an allergic reaction takes place the entire body’s system can be affected leading to many different signs and symptoms which include: hives, rashes, trouble breathing, nasal congestion, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, dizziness.1

No Laughing Matter

Food allergies are not something to shrug off as just someone being a “picky eater”.

Even the smallest amount of a food allergen in a meal can result in a reaction.   Sometimes people can even react to an allergen that they smell during cooking or that’s airborne.1   Even kissing can transmit a food allergen. 

Most Common Food Allergies

Any food can cause an allergic reaction, however – the most common food allergies in Canada are2:

  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Soy
  • Mustard
  • Wheat
  • Seafood
  • Egg
  • Milk
  • Sesame
  • Sulphite

Be an Allergy Aware Advocate

It’s important for all Canadians to recognize the importance of allergy awareness.  That doesn’t mean that everyone has to avoid all the common allergens.  Rather, it’s important to be sensitive to the fact that there are people who can’t eat certain foods and to make sure their wellbeing is taken into account in all food situations.

For example, when hosting a party or event, always take time to ask if anyone has allergies or food intolerances and do your best to accommodate what is being offered.  If you are packing school or work lunches, ensure that the common allergens are not present as they may be problematic for others.  If someone does have a food allergy and wants to sample a recipe you have made, show them the ingredients used and let them decide whether it’s safe for them to eat. 

When cooking for people with food allergies, practice food safety and ensure there is no cross contamination of food allergens with other items being prepared.1 Read the labels on pre-packaged foods and only purchase items that are guaranteed to be free from specific food allergens.1    Here is a helpful article on how to make sure you are practicing food safety in your kitchen:

Promote Cooking at Home

Some people with food allergies are nervous to eat out because they are unsure whether restaurants are able to guarantee their food is free from their food allergy.  It can result in a lot of anxiety – so try to make creative recipes that are free from specific allergens in your kitchen!

The following 3 recipes are free from the top Canadian food allergens – however, it’s important to remember – the recipes can always be modified to replace any ingredient that may be problematic. 

Grilled Tex Mex Chicken

Modern Chicken Marabella

Oven Jerk Chicken

These flavourful chicken recipes use a lot of bold spices – however, it’s important that they remain free from the allergen that needs to be avoided.  

When purchasing spices or seasonings, look for products that guarantee there is nothing added besides what’s on the label.2 Some dried herbs/seasonings may contain added wheat products and sulphites, so be aware of these added ingredients.2,3  Read the label carefully!  Also, avoid buying from bulk food stores as this increases the potential for cross-contamination.2

If you or someone you know has a food allergy it doesn’t mean food can’t be enjoyed.  You just need to take steps to ensure the food you are eating or preparing is kept safe!


  1. Food Allergy Canada. (2015). Fast Facts: Food Allergies in Canada. Retrieved July 10, 2016, from
  2. Case, S. (2016). Are Spices Safe for a Gluten Free Diet? Retrieved July 10, 2016, from
  3. Health Canada. (2012). Sulphites – One of the ten priority food allergens. Retrieved July 10, 2016, from


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