In the U.S. an estimated 4 million people suffer from food allergies. A food allergy, or hypersensitivity, is an abnormally robust response to a food item triggered by the immune system.
This severe reaction is responsible for 30,000 hospitalizations and 150 deaths a year in the U.S. Currently there is no cure for allergies; the only way a person who suffers from this ailment can prevent an allergic reaction is to identify certain foods responsible for such a reaction and avoid eating them.
Products which commonly cause food allergies in adults are shrimp, lobster, crab, and other shellfish, peanuts, walnuts and other tree nuts, fish and eggs. Children are often afflicted by eggs, milk, peanuts, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts fish and shrimp.
Common symptoms of an allergic reaction to food include:
With awareness of food allergens gaining more exposure from both the media and regulatory agencies, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and FDA (Food & Drug Administration) have increased their surveillance for products which do not comply with the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
In addition in 2004 the federal government enacted the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act which processors must be in compliance with by 2006. As a result the number of both USDA and FDA recalls due to undeclared allergens has increased significantly.
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