The top 8 food allergens

Food allergies are on the rise with upto 40% of children in Australia and New Zealand affected by allergic disorders and 20% having current symptoms. In the past 25 years, allergic diseases have doubled in Western countries (source ascia - Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy).

Any food or food additive can cause an allergic reaction. The most common food allergies are to: dairy, egg, peanuts, treenuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish.
These foods are referred to the the "Top 8", causing 90% of all food allergy reactions.

Milk allergy
Cow's milk is a common food allergy in infants with most growing out of the allergy by 4 years of age. In Australia and New Zealand, 1 in 50 babies have an allergy to milk and dairy products.
The symptoms of a reaction to milk can occur within minutes or upto several days later.
Symptoms include- hives, excema, face swelling, rash, vomiting, diarrhoea, wheezing. Severe reactions may cause floppiness and anaphylaxis.
Diagnosis- A doctor will organise a RAST (blood test) and/or a skin prick test to be done which will confirm whether an allergy to milk and dairy exists.
Treatment- If there is an allergy to milk, the first step is avoidance of all dairy products.

Allergy or Intolerance?

A milk allergy should not be confused with lactose intolerance.

* Cows milk allergy is an immediate or delayed reaction of the immune system to milk protein. A wide range of symptoms including anaphylaxis, excema, colic, reflux, vomiting, failure to thrive, diarrheoa. Symptoms usually appear from 4-6 weeks.

* Lactose intolerance is the body's inability to breakdown the lactose in milk, causing bloating, abdominal pain and diarrheoa. Reactions such as irritable behaviour, restless sleep, nappy rashes, reflux and loose stools occurring in the first week of life often indicate an intolerance.

So what happens if your child has a milk allergy? If your breastfed infant has been diagnosed with milk allergy, complete avoidance of dairy by the mother is recommended.

If your baby is on solids be very careful with manufactured baby food as they quite often use milk powder as a filler.

We are told that milk is a good source of calcium and protein. These days many people are reducing their dairy consumption because of food allergies,lactose intolerance, vegans or people wanting to reduce their fat and cholesterol intake.

Milk Alternatives There are plenty of alternatives for the child with a milk allergy. Milk substitutes are often used to replace milk in diet and also in recipes.

Soy Milk - Soy milk is healthy, cheap, readily available and easy to use. It is made from soy beans. It has as much protein as dairy milk, less fat and no cholesterol. Since most soy milks are fortified, it is also a comparable calcium source.

Rice Milk - Rice milk is slightly sweet with a translucent consistency. It works particularly well in dessert recipes. It has less protein than soy or dairy milk.

Coconut Milk - Coconut milk is a sweet and milky white cooking base made from the meat of a mature coconut. It is high in sugars and has a high oil content. Coconut oil has very powerful antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. It is also used in healing mouth ulcers, some people believe it to have a laxative effect.

Almond Milk - Made from almonds or other nuts so obviously do not use if your child has a nut allergy. Almond milk has a creamy consistency and a nutty taste. It is great for making fruit smoothies and desserts.

Other substitutes include: Peanut Milk, Oat milk and Barley milk.Water can be substituted for milk in most recipes.

Milk Allergy - Words to look for on labels

Even though manufacturers are required to clearly list the top allergens, sometimes the wording can be misleading as they use words that aren't recognised to be milk. The following words indicate the presence of milk and need to be avoided if your child has a milk allergy-
milk solids
milk protein
malted milk
goat's milk
sheeps milk
dairy solids
non-fat dairy solids
ammonium caseinate
calcium caseinate
magnesium caseinate
sodium caseinate
potassium caseinate
rennet caseinate
artificial butter flavour
butter oil
butter fat
condensed milk