Food Packaging & Identifying Safe Foods

Shopping for yourself when you have a food allergy or intolerance can be frustrating, and seemingly complex. There are, however some guidelines that can make the process less daunting. There is no need to feel as though you are missing out on the things you love to eat!

Careful Shopping

Most supermarkets will keep a ready supply of ‘free from’ lists that will help you navigate through their range of products while alerting you to what products contain the things you are allergic or intolerant to. These are usually free of charge and can be easily obtained from customer service kiosks or by writing to the stores head office and requesting one. Many of the top name brand food manufacturers also produce a ‘free from’ list and these are readily available on their web sites as a PDF file to download. If you shop regularly at a particular place, familiarise yourself with that store’s ‘free from’ information as this will pertain specifically to their range of products and will make shopping a lot easier for you.

Visit a Dietician

If you have not already been referred to one, ask your GP to recommend a dietician. Your dietician can pass on to you booklets available from the food intolerance database. These booklets can be specific for your particular allergy (i.e. eggs, or gluten).

Health Food Shops

Health food shops can also be quite a useful place to visit as they often stock a variety of foods for people that have special dietary needs. Some shops might even have a product catalogue that you can order special foods from. Just be aware this might be a little more costly than a supermarket. In addition, there are many health food stores ‘online’ that cater to food allergies and intolerances. By using the Internet, you can browse through a variety of shops and products specifically tailored to your needs. 

Food Labels

Food labels are also an increasingly important source of information about what is actually in the product you are about to buy. Labelling guidelines now insist that there be allergy alerts on packaging. Check that what you are buying does not contain what you are allergic to, or has been prepared in an environment where cross contamination might have occurred. A good example of this is when a label states there are no nuts in the product but that it was made in a factory that uses nuts and so therefore might contain traces of nuts. If you have a egg allergy, and the product you want to buy does not specifically state it is ‘egg free’ then it is safer not to risk buying it at all.

Use Food Substitutes

Another tip for maximising your enjoyment of food without putting yourself at risk is substituting ingredients in recipes that use foods you are allergic to. There are a wide range of egg, dairy, gluten, nut, meat and Soya substitutes that can easily fill in for the ‘real thing’ when you are cooking. They are easily found at supermarkets and food shops. There are numerous cookbooks aimed at those with food allergies, which offer alternative recipes to old favourites and new ideas. The Internet is also limitless on recipe sites that cater to special diets and food needs.

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Guide to Food Allergies