Hidden Food Allergens: 18 Surprising Foods (and Drinks) That Have Them
For adults and kids with food allergies, avoiding triggers can be tricky. Sure, you can read the food label — but it’s not always that simple. Sometimes allergens lurk where you least expect them.
Eight foods trigger most food allergies: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat. And some people are sensitive to gluten.
We’ve rounded up 18 of the most surprising places these culprits can hide.
- Pre-basted turkey. They might save you a little work, but you could be in for an allergic surprise. Pre-basted or self-basting turkeys can contain soy, wheat and dairy.
- Canned tuna. It’s far from the dairy case, but some canned tuna fish contains casein, a milk protein (also used in some meats). Canned tuna may also have soy.
- Candy. Obviously, a chocolate bar with peanuts is a no-no if you have a peanut allergy. But other candy can pose risks, too. Nut-free candy can be made on the same equipment as nutty sweets, making it guilty by association. Some candies contain eggs.
- Deli meats. Processed meats like cold cuts may have soy and gluten. If meats are cut on the same slicers as cheese, there’s a chance of being exposed to milk allergens.
- Hot dog. This American favorite could be packed with wheat and soy. Some hot dogs may also have gluten, so if that’s a concern, look for packages labeled gluten-free.
- Canned soup. Eggs and soy may be hiding in your can of soup, particularly if there are noodles swimming in the broth.
- Low-fat peanut butter. Soy can hide in strange places, including low-fat peanut butter and some other nut butters. (Obviously, stay away from nut butters if you have peanut or tree nut allergies.)
- Energy drinks. When you’re looking for a liquid pick-me-up, be careful. Energy drinks, as well as body-building drinks and some beverage mixes, often contain whey, a milk protein.
- Worcestershire sauce. Skip the sauce if you have a fish allergy. Fish is often a common ingredient. Fish also hides in Caesar salad and Asian cuisine that uses fish-based stock.
- Chicken nuggets. Every kid’s favorite finger food may contain soy. Because of the breading the nuggets likely also have wheat and gluten.
- Chewing gum. You find it stuck pretty much everywhere, but do you have any idea what’s in it? Turns out some chewing gums have milk protein.
- Root beer. That foamy head that makes root beer so frothy and fun may come courtesy of egg whites. Grab a different drink if eggs are your Achilles heel.
- Licorice. This twisty treat should be off limits if you’re worried about wheat or gluten. Wheat flour can be high on the ingredient list.
- Veggie burger. Check the label on meat-free patties and you may see “textured vegetable protein” or TVP. What the label may or may not explain is that TVP is made from soy.
- Ice cream. Milk-allergic folks know to stay away. But ice cream also may be made with eggs and wheat.
- Hot chocolate. Unless you make it yourself from scratch, forget a steaming mug of cocoa if you have issues with soy, wheat or gluten. The label on the box of instant hot chocolate may say, “made on equipment that also processes soy and wheat.”
- Vodka. Before you toast, investigate what’s in your glass. Soy can hide in some vodkas.
- Wasabi peas. They’re yummy and crunchy — but they may be coated in wheat flour. Check the label.