Tips for Avoiding Food Allergens

Label reading is a necessity where food allergies are concerned. Any FDA-regulated food products are required by law to list an allergen warning for the “Top 8” allergens (milk, egg, wheat, soy, peanut, tree nut, fish and shellfish). However, some foods may contain traces of allergens or allergen proteins but not contain the allergen itself. While some foods do have “may contain traces of” warning labels, these are not required by law, so not all food packages have them.

It is important to not only read labels carefully, but to also know what unexpected sources could contain the allergens you need to avoid.

Below you will find a list of allergen sources. The presence of these ingredients do not always indicate that an allergen is present, but this list serves to encourage people to become familiar with ingredients and to carefully read labels.

Ingredients to Look for When Avoiding Milk:

milk and cheese 1

  • Butter, Butter fat, butter oil, butter acid, butter ester(s)
  • Buttermilk
  • Casein, casein hydrolysate
  • Caseinates (all forms)
  • Cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cream
  • Curds
  • Custard
  • Diacetyl
  • Ghee
  • Half-and-half
  • Lactalbumin, lactalbumin phosphate
  • Lactoferrin
  • Lactose
  • Lactulose
  • Milk (all forms)
  • Milk protein hydrolysate
  • Pudding
  • Recaldent®
  • Rennet casein
  • Sour cream, sour cream solids
  • Sour milk solids
  • Tagatose
  • Whey (in all forms)
  • Whey protein hydrolysate
  • Yogurt


Also, be aware of the possibility of milk in the following:

  • Artificial butter flavor
  • Baked goods
  • Caramel candies
  • Chocolate
  • Lactic acid starter culture and other bacterial cultures
  • Luncheon meat, hot dogs, sausages
  • Margarine
  • Nisin
  • Nondairy products
  • Nougat


People with a cow’s milk allergy are sometimes advised to avoid milk from other domestic animals. For instance, the protein found in goat’s milk is similar to the protein found in cow’s milk. Therefore, people who have a milk allergy could still react to it.

Ingredients to Look for When Avoiding Wheat:

wheat 1

  • Bread crumbs
  • Bulgur
  • Cereal extract
  • Club wheat
  • Couscous
  • Cracker meal
  • Durum
  • Einkorn
  • Emmer
  • Farina
  • Flour (in all forms)
  • Hydrolyzed wheat protein
  • Kamut®
  • Matzoh, matzoh meal (may also be spelled matzo, matzah or matza)
  • Pasta
  • Seitan
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
  • Triticale
  • Vital wheat gluten
  • Wheat (berries, bran, durum, germ, gluten, grass, malt, sprouts, starch)
  • Wheat bran hydrolysate
  • Wheat germ oil
  • Wheat protein isolate


Also, be aware of the possibility of wheat in the following:

  • Glucose syrup
  • Oats
  • Soy sauce
  • Starch (all forms)
  • Surimi

Ingredients to Look for When Avoiding Egg:

eggs 1

  • Albumin (or albumen)
  • Egg (all forms)
  • Eggnog
  • Globulin
  • Livetin
  • Lysozyme
  • Mayonnaise
  • Meringue
  • Surimi
  • Vitellin
  • Words that begin with “ovo” or “ova” (like ovalbumin)


Also, be aware of the possibility of egg in the following:

  • Baked goods
  • Breaded items
  • Drink foam (alcoholic, specialty coffee)
  • Egg substitutes
  • Fried rice
  • Ice cream
  • Lecithin
  • Marzipan
  • Marshmallows
  • Meatloaf or meatballs
  • Nougat
  • Pasta


People who have an egg allergy should also avoid eggs from other birds (duck, turkey, goose, quail, etc.) because these eggs are known to be cross-reactive with the chicken egg. The egg white is what contains the actual protein, but if you have an egg allergy, it is best to avoid all eggs completely.

Ingredients to Look for When Avoiding Soy:

soy-products 1

  • Edamame
  • Miso
  • Natto
  • Soy (in all forms)
  • Soya
  • Soybean
  • Soy protein
  • Shoyu
  • Soy sauce
  • Tamari
  • Tempeh
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  • Tofu


Also, be aware of the possibility of soy in the following:

  • Asian cuisine
  • Vegetable broth, vegetable gum, vegetable starch


The FDA does not label highly refined soybean oil as an allergen. Studies show that most people who have a soy allergy can safely eat soy oil if it has been highly refined. Most people with a soy allergy can also safely eat soy lecithin. However, you should consult your doctor before consuming these ingredients.

Ingredients to Look for When Avoiding Shellfish:


  • Barnacle
  • Crab
  • Crawfish (crawdad, crayfish, ecrevisse)
  • Krill
  • Lobster (langouste, langoustine, Moreton bay bugs, scampi, tomalley)
  • Prawns
  • Shrimp (crevette, scampi)


Also, be aware of the possibility of shellfish in the following:

  • Bouillabaisse
  • Cuttlefish ink
  • Glucosamine fish stock
  • Seafood flavoring
  • Surimi


Under food labeling laws, mollusks are not considered a major allergen, so they may not be labeled accordingly. Consult your doctor about avoiding mollusks and ingredients that may contain them if you have a shellfish allergy.

Be aware that food served in a seafood restaurant might still contain shellfish protein because of cross-contact. Some people with a shellfish allergy may even react from airborne allergens or touching fish and shellfish.

Ingredients to Look for When Avoiding Fish:

fish-in-bowl 1

  • Barbecue sauce
  • Bouillabaisse
  • Caesar salad
  • Caviar
  • Deep fried items
  • Fish flavoring
  • Fish flour
  • Fish fume
  • Fish gelatin (kosher gelatin, marine gelatin)
  • Fish oil
  • Fish sauce imitation fish or shellfish isinglass lutefisk maw, maws (fish maw)
  • Fish stock
  • Fishmeal
  • Nuoc mam (Vietnamese name for fish sauce; beware of other ethnic names)
  • Pizza (anchovy topping)
  • Roe
  • Salad dressing
  • Seafood flavoring
  • Shark cartilage
  • Shark fin
  • Surimi
  • Sushi, sashimi
  • Worcestershire sauce


People who are allergic to fish should avoid seafood restaurants as cross-contact and airborne allergens are a strong possibility. Fish sauce is often used as a flavoring base in a lot of Asian foods.

Ingredients to Look for When Avoiding Peanuts:

Hypoallergenic Peanut Butter

  • Arachis oil
  • Artificial nuts
  • Beer nuts
  • Cold, expeller pressed, or extruded peanut oil
  • Goobers
  • Ground nuts
  • Mandelonas (peanuts soaked in almond flavoring)
  • Mixed nuts
  • Monkey nuts
  • Nut pieces
  • Nut meat
  • Peanut butter
  • Peanut flour
  • Peanut protein hydrolysate


Also, be aware of the possibility of peanuts in the following:

  • African, Asian (especially Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Thai, and Vietnamese), and Mexican dishes
  • Baked goods
  • Candy
  • Chili
  • Egg rolls
  • Enchilada sauce
  • Marzipan
  • Mole sauce
  • Nougat


Highly refined peanut oil is not considered an allergen under food labeling laws. Most people who have a peanut allergy can safely eat highly refined peanut oil.

Studies have shown there is a high possibility of a cross-reaction between peanuts and lupine.

Many people who are allergic to peanuts are advised by their doctors to also avoid tree nuts. Some foods such as sunflower seeds and different nut butters are manufactured on equipment that may also be shared with peanuts. You should check labels and even follow up with the manufacturer before consuming these products.

Ingredients to Look for When Avoiding Tree Nuts:

Tips for Avoiding Food Allergens

  • Almond
  • Artificial nuts
  • Beechnut
  • Brazil nut
  • Butternut
  • Cashew
  • Chestnut
  • Chinquapin nut
  • Coconut (Coconut is usually not restricted when someone has a tree nut allergy, but the FDA classified coconut as a tree nut in October 2006. Talk to your doctor about avoiding coconut.)
  • Filbert/hazelnut
  • Gianduja
  • Ginkgo nut
  • Hickory nut
  • Litchi/lichee/lychee nut
  • Macadamia nut
  • Marzipan/almond paste
  • Nangai nut
  • Natural nut extract
  • Nut butters
  • Nut meal
  • Nut meat
  • Nut paste
  • Nut pieces
  • Pecan
  • Pesto
  • Pili nut
  • Pine nut (also referred to as Indian, pignoli, pigñolia, pignon, piñon, and pinyon nut)
  • Pistachio (also look out for mortadella)
  • Praline
  • Shea nut
  • Walnut


Also, be aware of the possibility of tree nuts in the following:

  • Black walnut hull extract
  • Natural nut extract
  • Nut distillates/alcoholic extracts
  • Nut oils
  • Walnut hull extract


Coconut oil and shea nut oil/butter have not been proven to cause an allergic reaction. Many people who are allergic to tree nuts are advised by their doctors to avoid peanuts also. If you are concerned about any nuts not listed here, you should talk to your doctor.

As always, if you have an allergy and are unsure about avoiding something, please talk to your doctor first. Be sure to read labels carefully, even if it is something you have purchased in the past. Manufacturers could change their ingredients or cut down on equipment and use the same equipment on which they process foods that contain allergens. Also, if you are allergic to something outside of the top eight, you have to read through all of the ingredients extra carefully, because there will be no allergen warning on the label.

When managing food allergies, whether you are dining out or purchasing food items from a grocery store, it is important to be as educated as possible. We hope this list helps you in knowing what to look out for! Again, this is a suggested list, and allergens may not always be present just because some of these ingredients are. There may be ingredients that are not on this list. If you see that we missed something, please let us know in the comments!

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