While some allergens are easy to spot, others are a little more difficult, making a trip to the supermarket a daunting task. But if you know what to look for (and what to avoid), you can take the guesswork and anxiety out of food shopping. Dietitian Tracy Morris takes a look at six of the most common allergens, and where they can hide.
Allergen # 1: Cow's milk
Food labels: these ingredients may contain cow’s milk
Butter, butter fat
Casein (in all forms)
Cheese (in all forms)
Cream (in all forms)
Crème fraiche / fromage frais
Cow’s milk in all forms including: condensed, evaporated, imitation, lactose free, powder, protein, protein hydrolysate, solids, sour milk
Hidden dangers: these foods may contain cow's milk
Grains, bread, cereals and pasta: Bread, breakfast cereals and muesli
Dairy, dairy products and alternatives: All dairy products including A2 milk, long life milk, soy cheese, soy yoghurt, vegetarian cheese
Meat, fish, poultry and alternatives: Battered or crumbed food (eg. chicken nuggets, schnitzel), canned fish, meatloaf, meat pies and sausage rolls, sausages, and most processed meats, including deli meats (chicken loaf, devon, salami)
Hidden dangers: these foods may contain peanuts, tree nuts or sesame
Grains, bread, cereals and pasta: Cereals, muesli, bread
Meat, fish, poultry and alternatives: Mortadella, nut meat or nutrissoles, processed meats/sausages/chicken, textured or hydrolysed vegetable protein (TVP/HVP), vegetarian foods (such as tempeh, vegetarian burgers)
Sauces, condiments, dressings and soups: Chutney, commercial sauces and soups, dips, dressings, gomashio (Japanese condiment made from unhulled sesame seeds), hommous, marinades, patés, pesto, satay sauce, tahina/tahini, Worcestershire sauce
Fats, oils and spreads: Nut spreads (eg. Nutella), sesame oil Snack foods: Cereal, health, or muesli bars, crackers (including rice), mandelonas (peanuts soaked in almond flavouring), pretzels
Egg in any form including dried, powdered, solids, white, yolk, substitutes, eggnog, white solids, imitation egg products
Hidden dangers: these foods may contain egg
Grains, bread, cereals and pasta: Egg pasta, macaroni, noodles
Meat, fish, poultry and alternatives: All food made with or containing eggs such as battered or crumbed foods (such as fritters, schnitzel), frittatas, hamburgers, omelettes, quiche, rissoles or meatloaf, sausages, surimi (minced fish) and other bird eggs, such as duck or goose eggs
Snack foods: Pretzels
Sauces, condiments, dressings and soups: Béarnaise, Caesar salad and Ranch dressing, commercial soups, hollandaise, mayonnaise, tartare sauce
Beverages and alcohol: Ale, beer, milk flavourings, stout
Takeaway meals: Battered and crumbed food, pizza
Other: Baking powder, BBQ salts and flavourings, some commercial yeast, wheat grass
Nutrients you’re at risk of missing
Gluten-containing foods provide chromium, fibre, folate, iron, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, selenium and thiamin.
Understanding label lingo
Australian law requires all major allergens to be declared on the label, no matter how small the amount. In some cases, a manufacturer may use a blanket warning statement, even when one of these ingredients isn’t actually added to a product, such as ‘contains traces’ or ‘may be present’. This can be confusing and result in overly restrictive diets, but thanks to allergy support groups working with the food industry, food labels are becoming more consumer friendly.
In the meantime, if you are unsure about a product, check with the manufacturer and an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
The top allergy-free pantry essentials
Breads, cereal and grains
Many breads and cereals can contain milk, eggs, soy, nuts, seeds or gluten either as an ingredient or in trace amounts. To prevent missing out on all the energy and fibre-loaded goodness these carbohydrate-rich foods can provide, try these products:
DOVEDALE Rye Chia Bread Free from: Milk, Egg, Nuts, Sesame, Fish, Soy. This bread is a multiple-allergy sufferers’ dream. It’s also a source of fibre and omega-3, thanks to the chia seed.
UNCLE TOBY’STraditional Oats Free from: Milk, Egg, Nuts, Sesame, Shellfish, Soy. When it comes to good brekkie choices, you can’t go past traditional oats. They’re high in fibre and low in fat, sugar and salt.
ORGRANSupergrains 100% amaranth puffed breakfast cereal Free from: Milk, Egg, Nuts, Soy, Gluten. Aztecs used to eat amaranth for breakfast − and for good reason. It has one of the highest levels of protein of any grain, is high in fibre and is low in salt, sugar and fat.
SUNRICE Doongara rice Free from: Milk, Egg, Peanut, Nuts, Soy, Gluten. This clever rice has a lower GI than regular rice, keeping you fuller for longer.
COUNTRY LIFE Gluten-free multigrain or low GI bread Free from: Peanuts, Seafood, Gluten. Lower in salt than most breads, this bread is also high in fibre, low GI and fortified with vitamin B1 (thiamin).
LO WAN WHOLE FOODS Rice porridge with orchard fruits Free from: Milk, Egg, Seafood, Soy, Gluten. This porridge will keep you going all morning long! It’s high in fibre, low-salt and low-fat.
FOOD FOR HEALT H LIFE FOOD The Gluten Free Muesli Free from: Milk, Egg, Peanut, Sesame, Seafood, Soy, Gluten. Also perfect for those following a low-sodium diet.
BONVIT Psyllium husks Free from: Milk, Egg, Peanut, Sesame, Seafood, Soy, Gluten. If a low-fibre, gluten-free diet is clogging you up, psyllium husks are a source of soluble fibre to get your bowels moving.
SUNRICE Medium Grain Brown Rice Free from: Milk, Egg, Nuts, Peanuts, Sesame, Seafood, Soy, Gluten. With a moderate GI rating, this rice is high in fibre and a source of magnesium and vitamin B3.
CASALARE Quinoa Grain Free from: Milk, Egg, Nuts, Peanuts Soy, Gluten. This supergrain, pronounced ‘keen-wa’, is creating a buzz in the gluten-free world. It’s protein-rich, low GI, high in fibre and a good source of iron.
Pasta and noodles
Pasta can contain egg or traces of egg, making it challenging to find an egg-free pasta. However, these products make it easier:
CASALARE Semolina pasta vegie spirals or alphabet Free from: Milk, Egg, Peanut, Nuts. There is a small amount of spinach, beetroot and tomato powder added to bring in some colour. The alphabet variety is sure to be a hit with the kids.
VITARIUM Macaroni and cheese Free from: Egg, Nut, Soy, Gluten. Perfect for those nights when you just can’t be bothered to cook and want something quick and easy to throw in the microwave. It’s low in fat, sugar and salt, so it’s a healthy and delicious option for non-allergy sufferers, too.
SAN REMO Gluten Free Spaghetti Free from: Milk, Egg, Peanuts, Nuts, Sesame, Seafood, Gluten. Now those who can’t eat gluten don’t have to miss out when the rest of the family is enjoying the all-time classic: spag bol.
CHANG’S rice noodles Free from: Milk, Egg, Peanuts, Nuts, Sesame, Seafood, Soy, Gluten. Although low in fibre, rice noodles are popular amongst gluten-free foodies, as they offer the closest replacement to wheat pasta.
Meat, fish, poultry and vegetarian alternatives
Unprocessed meat and other sources of protein (including beans, lentils and chickpeas) can provide protein, iron, zinc and fibre with very little risk of an allergic reaction.
FARM PRIDE Free range Omega-3-enriched eggs Free from: Milk, Peanuts, Nuts, Sesame, Fish. Fish allergy sufferers miss out on the essential omega-3 fats found in oily fish. Even omega-3 fish oil supplements can’t be guaranteed of being fish-allergen free. So, if you don’t have an egg allergy, going for omega-3 enriched foods, such as eggs, is a great way to amp up these ‘good’ fats.
EDGELL 3 beans and corn balsamic vinegar Free from: Milk, Peanuts, Nuts, Sesame, Fish, Soy, Gluten. This three bean and corn mix is great for low-fat snacking on-the-go.
The major allergens are added to many foods as a way to add protein, bulk or flavouring, making it tough for a person with multiple allergies to find a suitable pre-packaged snack.
CARMAN’S Muesli bites Free from: Milk, Egg, Soy. We love these bite-sized muesli bars because they are low-GI and come in smaller portions that regular muesli bars, which are perfect for lunchboxes or a lower kilojoule snack.
ORGRAN Toasted Corn Crispbread Free from: Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Nuts, Soy, Gluten. As far as crispbreads go, the Orgran variety is tops for allergy-free goodness, and is also low in fat.
PURE HARVEST Organic natural thin corn cakes Free from: Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Nuts, Soy, Gluten. These corn cakes are low-fat and free of all allergens except seeds (they may contain traces).
FREEDOM FOODS Free from Gluten Chick Pea Chips Free from: Milk, Egg, Sesame, Fish, Gluten. These chickpea chips are high in fibre and contain half the salt of regular potato chips. They are still high in fat, so they should only be an occasional snack.
RIVIANA popping corn Free from: Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Nuts, Soy, Gluten. One of the healthiest snacks around, popcorn is high in fibre and low in fat (when air-popped, of course).
SAKATA Wholegrain rice crackers Free from: Egg, Peanuts, Nuts, Seafood, Soy, Gluten. These rice crackers are a source of fibre.
FOOD FOR HEALTH LIFE FOOD The Gluten Free Bar with Fruit Free from: Milk, Peanuts, Gluten. The bars are low in salt and a source of fibre.
Dairy products and alternatives
Cow’s milk (and its products) is a nutrient-dense food and generally the main source of dietary calcium. It’s important to be aware that many soy milks contain malt, which contains gluten.
VITASOY high-fibre soymilk Free from: Milk, Egg, Peanuts, Nuts, Seafood. This tasty, low-fat soy milk has added calcium, vitamins A and B12 and is a source of fibre.
VITASOY Rice milk protein enriched with chickpeas Free from: Milk, Eggs, Nuts, Seeds, Fish, Soy. For people with milk and soy allergies, rice milk is a good alternative, especially if it’s calcium enriched. Vitasoy has the bonus of double the protein, compared to other rice milks, due to the added chickpeas.
VITA SOY Soy Milky Lite Free from: Milk, Egg, Peanuts, Nuts, Seafood, Gluten. This is the perfect low-fat, calcium-rich choice for vegetarians with allergies.
TOFUTTI Soy Cheese Slices American Free from: Milk, Egg, Gluten. The American flavoured variety has added calcium, making it a great alternative to regular cheese. But it’s still high in salt and fat, so don’t overdo it.
NESTLE Carnation soy cooking milk Free from: Milk, Egg, Shellfish, Gluten. If you have a milk allergy and really miss that creamy texture that dairy can provide, then this soy cooking milk is the answer to your woes. The good news? It’s 97% fat free, so won’t pile on the pounds.
Fats, oils and spreads
NUTTELEX Light Dairy Free Free from: Milk, Egg, Nuts, Soy, Gluten. Butter is off-limits for cow’s milk allergy sufferers, and many margarines have milk solids added. This spread is virtually trans fat free with less salt than most others.
ORGRA N No egg “egg replacer” Free from: Milk, Egg, Soy, Gluten. For people with an eggallergy, baking can be a troublesome task. But now you can bake your cake and eat it too!
Looking for something sweet after dinner? Good ol’ fashioned jelly and custard is what you need. If you also have a soy allergy, skip the custard and just make jelly with fresh fruit for a yummy dessert.
WELL AND GOOD Chocolate Mud Cake Mix Free from: Milk, Nuts, Gluten. One slice of this decadent mud cake is a source of fibre, but the sugar and fat are high. Keep it for a special treat.
Sauces, condiments and dressings
PRAISE 97% fat free mayonnaise Free from: Milk, Egg. Egg is a main ingredient in mayonnaise, but Praise has an egg-free version, making it a healthy, low-fat option.
YUMI’S Dips Free from: Milk, Gluten. Go for the veg variety, like eggplant or spicy pumpkin, which are lower in fat.
CHANG’S Gluten free range of sauces (including Soy, Black bean, Hoisin, Oyster, Sweet Chilli) Free from: Gluten (other allergens dependent on product, so check label). These sauces are an affordable way to add flavour to your food without pain.
MAGGI Gluten Free Recipe Mixes Free from: Egg, Peanuts, Nuts, Seeds, Fish, Gluten. These products are handy for quick dinner options, but keep an eye on the salt.
WILD FOX Vegan Wines Free from: Milk, Egg, Shellfish. Proteins are used in a wine manufacturing process called ‘fining’. Foods such as egg, milk and shellfish are used to separate out the ‘unwanted bits’. Vegan wines are free from all animal products and are a great option for people with allergies.
O’BRIEN Gluten free Pale Ale Free from: Gluten. Most of the carbohydrates in beer come from barley malt, a glutencontaining ingredient. This ale uses sorghum and millet grains instead.
Please note: We’ve made every effort to make this guide as comprehensive as we can, but it is not necessarily exhaustive. If you have an allergy, or suspect you have an allergy, always be sure to checkthe food labels, as food companies can change their ingredients and manufacturing processes. Be sure to consult your doctor or Accredited Practising Dietitian before unnecessarily removing foods from your diet.