Cross reactions

Cross reactivity means that being allergic to one food can make you more likely to be allergic to another one. Suprisingly, these are not always foods that are closely related. Peanuts, for example, are part of the legume family, which includes black-eyed peas, kidney and lima beans, and soybeans, yet most people who have a peanut allergy are fine with all of these other legumes, but do have a problem with tree nuts. The standard advice is if you are allergic to nuts or peanuts, avoid both.

If you have an allergy and are unsure about what else is unsafe to eat, consult your doctor, dietitian, or allergist, who will use your food history and symptom diary to help them establish which other foods you should watch out for.

Cross reactivity between nuts and seeds is less common; for example, most people who have to avoid nuts can eat sesame seeds (although about 15 per cent cannot). Pine nuts are seeds and tolerated by many people with nut allergies. Similarly cross reactivity between animal products is unusual; people who are allergic to eggs can usually eat chicken - so roasts and stews are unlikely to be out of bounds.

Within the shellfish group, crustaceans (shrimp, crab, and lobster) are most likely to cause a reaction, but allergies to molluscs (clam, oysters, and abalone, for example) are on the increase. Occasionally, people are allergic to both types. It will soon become an EU requirement that molluscs are listed as potential allergens in food labelling (see p.38).

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