KOLD INVESTIGATES: Hidden allergens could be in your food

KOLD INVESTIGATES: Hidden allergens could be in your food

TUCSON, ARIZONA - Experts estimate as many as 15 million Americans have food allergies.

For years, the U.S. has mandated the top allergens be clearly marked on all foods.

While we know reactions to things like peanuts can be serious, there are other potential allergens that aren't necessarily labeled.


These ingredients can cause dangerous, even deadly, reactions to those at risk.

Alison Manhoff loves cooking with her son Hudson. But prepping food is no piece of cake. Since he was little, Alison has known Hudson is allergic to a lot of things.?P

"He was allergic to peanuts and tree nuts," Manhoff said. "Eventually, we added eggs, dairy, soy."

And then sesame was added to that list.

It wasn't until Hudson accidentally ate a classmate's hummus, they found out just how serious that allergy could be.

"They immediately used an epinephrine device to provide emergency care and called an ambulance," Manhoff said.

Hudson had an anaphylactic reaction. Manhoff now diligently reads labels.

The thing is, manufacturers aren't required to list sesame.

In fact, only the top eight allergens -- milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybean -- have to be listed on labels.

That's a problem, according to Dr. Jim Baker.

Baker said there are over 100 foods proven to cause allergies, and the reactions can be severe.

"We've had severe reactions, in some cases even deaths, from sesame allergy," Baker said.

Baker said ingredients can show up in foods you wouldn't expect.

"One of the big problems we have in this country is that you group things and call them natural flavorings," Baker said.

According to the FDA, eight major food allergens account for more than 90 percent of all cases.

Baker stressed that doesn't mean other allergens are less important.

"We'd like full and complete content labeling for all foods," he said. "It's done in other countries around the world and we feel it could be done here."

The Grocery Manufacturers Association said the FDA and USDA set food labeling regulation, but "companies can disclose additional information voluntarily" and "a consumer concerned about a specific ingredient can also contact the manufacturer."

Manhoff said she contacts manufacturers on a regular basis, but wishes she didn't have to jump through hoops to keep her son safe.

"When it comes to food allergens and the potential that it could impact someone's life, I think we need more transparency," she said.

The GMA said in an effort to provide more transparency, it has helped to pioneer something called www.smartlabel.org, a digital platforms to provide consumers with more detailed producer information.

If you experience an allergic reaction to food, or even think you are, it is critical to seek immediate medical attention.

Once treated, you should report what happened to the manufacturer so the incident can be investigated. Make sure to save packaging and any remaining product.

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