Monday, November 28, 2011

Food Allergens in Nonfood Products

by Kelley Lindberg

If only food allergens were just in food.

It’s one thing to have to learn to read ingredients labels on the food you buy at the grocery store. But it’s crazy to realize you have to read labels for just about anything else, too. It’s surprising the places that common allergens, like nuts, eggs, milk, or gluten, will show up.

Last year, we received a cute polar bear soap dispenser as a gift. My son snatched the dispenser for his own bathroom, and I was so busy with other holiday activities I didn’t give it a second thought. Over the next few weeks, we began to notice that my son’s hands were becoming red, dry, and itchy. We couldn’t figure out what was wrong. After trying several lotions, reminding him to thoroughly rinse any soap off his hands when he washed them, and otherwise scratching our heads, I found myself standing in his bathroom one day staring at the polar bear dispenser. I had never checked its ingredients. Come to think of it, I don’t remember if it even came with a list of ingredients. I removed the dispenser from his bathroom, replaced it with some soap I know is safe, and within just a couple of days, his hands cleared up and he was back to normal. There must have been a nut oil, such as almond or macadamia nut, in the soap all along.

This time of year, gifts of soaps, lotions, and perfumes are common, so it’s a good reminder to check all labels. And if you or your child is experiencing allergic rashes you can’t get rid of, look especially hard at all of your soaps, lotions, detergents, and cosmetics.

Here are some of the unexpected places where you might find food allergens, especially nuts, milk, soy, eggs, or wheat:
  • Body lotions, creams, and moisturizers
  • Exfoliants
  • Shampoos and conditioners
  • Soap
  • Shaving creams
  • Makeup and cosmetics
  • Nail polish fast-dry
  • Household cleaners
  • Toothpaste
  • Dentist office toothpaste and polishes
  • Vaccinations and shots (many are egg-based)
  • Medications and vitamins (check both active and inactive ingredients)
  • Bird seed (often contain nuts)
  • Top soil (sometimes contains ground nut shells)
  • Fertilizers (sometimes contain ground nut shells)
  • The sand in sand & water tables (often uses crushed nut shells)
  • Play-Doh (contains wheat)
  • Moon Sand (contains corn starch, but the company states it does NOT contain wheat, gluten, milk, egg, casein, or peanut ingredients.)
  • Paints
  • Adhesives on stamps, envelopes, and stickers you have to lick (many contain wheat)
  • Livestock bedding
  • Pet food and treats
  • Beanbags (including some beanbag chairs, hacky sacks, beanbag-type stuffed animals, and doorway draft blockers, which might contain ground nut shells)
  • Ant traps and mousetraps
  • Potpourris
  • Scented candles
After you’ve lived with food allergies for a while, reading ingredients labels on grocery items becomes second nature. But it’s good to remember to read labels on everything your allergic family member comes into contact with, not just the things they eat.


foodallergymom said...
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foodallergymom said...

Kelley.. allergens in products makes me crazy. My first experience was with Crayola Dropz. My kids rubbed the tablets into their hands... within minutes were hives and tears from itching. Turns out they contain lactic acid, milk derived. I recently purchased a Suave conditioner which ended up also having lactic acid. Same problems and reactions when the product got on their hands. I wish it was just foods we had to watch out for!