Trace allergens - the secret agents in foods.

Have you ever thought about those foods that say “may contain nuts” or “may contain soy” and thought “What, it either contains it or it doesn’t?”  In an ideal world, we’d be able to clearly separate the foods from the allergens and we all live happily. It would be clearer on ingredients lists, and also clearer for those with allergies. But what those lists emphasize is the vast amount of trace allergens that are in the foods we eat. And it’s important they are stated.

Those who have an allergy may be extremely sensitive to a specific ingredient, as we all know severity is a scale and some are more sensitive than others.

What is a trace allergen?

Putting it simply, a trace allergen is when a food may have small amounts of a specific ingredient that some people are allergic to. For example, traces of nuts. This means the food or product may have either been in contact with, or one or more of the ingredients may contain nuts. There are many foods which contain trace allergens, and you may find yourself surprised at the amount there is out there.

When looking at Soya, there are many foods which may contain traces of soya, such as: 

  • Baby food

  • Various meat products (sausages/beef burgers/cold cuts)

  • Cakes and biscuits

  • Dairy substitutes

  • Frozen desserts and ice creams, among many more 

Soya may not be a direct ingredient, there could be other ingredients and stabilisers which are used to create that food.

This applies to foods that may contain nuts, such as:

  • Cereals and granola

  • Chili and soups. Peanuts or peanut butter are sometimes used as thickeners.

  • Grain breads

  • High-energy bars

  • Sauces. These may include barbeque sauce, hot sauce, pesto, gravy, mole sauce, glazes, or marinades.

  • Salads and salad dressing

While you may not think a sauce or salad dressing would typically contain nuts or soy, this is exactly where the “traces of” comes in.

What reaction can you expect?

Your reaction will completely vary based on your own personal severity to a specific trace allergen. If you are highly sensitive then your reaction will be very similar to that of a typical allergic reaction.

A typical allergic reaction could be:

  • Swelling

  • Rash

  • Stomach pain

  • Nausea

  • Tingling in throat or mouth (may feel tight)

If your reactions are more mild, you may find the way your body reacts to traces more subtle. It may be a slight tingling sensation, runny nose, or a mild rash. With a mild reaction the use of an epipen may not be needed.

As it stands, there is no legal requirement to label any food which may contain traces of one or more of the main 14 allergens. Which can mean that navigating the hospitality industry is extremely difficult if you suffer from a food allergy. 

Allergen Checker wants to change that. We want to make the hospitality industry safe for everyone to enjoy. Our Allergen system provides businesses with the ability to provide that safety net for their customers. Try out our 7 day free trial.

The information provided in this blog is purely informational. Please speak to your GP for further information on any concerns you have regarding allergies. Sources for information are: