Hidden Food Allergens: What You Need to Know For Your Family’s Safety

Whether you’re new to the food allergy world or seasoned, finding out about “hidden” allergies feels like a punch in the gut. You’ve done a million things to keep your baby safe: drastically changed your diet, stopped taking your multivitamin and going out to eat, and countless other sacrifices.


Then you find out one of your medications contains a soy derivative. Or the “safe” protein mix you’ve been using DOES have a form of dairy in it. You feel defeated, and we’ve all been there.


“Hidden food allergens” are broken-down forms of food proteins that, despite their tiny size, can still cause an allergic reaction. Your baby may react to these allergens directly through solid foods or indirectly with your breastmilk.


We know pitfalls like this make the road so much harder. You’re exhausted, and just trying to keep your baby healthy and safe. Free to Feed educates and empowers families like yours with knowledge and research surrounding baby food allergies.


Today we’re going to share more about hidden food allergens, where you can find them, and even provide lists to make it easier!


What Are Hidden Food Allergens and Why Are They Sneaky?


Allergens hide and sneak by on labels for everyday products far too often. Why? Food proteins that are broken down or highly processed often don’t cause allergic reactions for most people.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now labels the top 9 food allergies (just adding sesame in 2021) — for the adult population, not infants.


Keep in mind that most babies do outgrow their food allergies. In the meantime, look out for the most common missing infant food allergies on that list: oats, legumes, rice, chicken, and beef.


Since the FDA doesn’t have to label highly processed forms of protein, your life as a food allergy parent has even greater challenges.


For example, products can be labeled “non-dairy” when they contain casein — a milk protein! It absolutely causes reactions in babies with dairy allergies, whether from solid foods or breastfeeding. *cue eye roll now*


Food anaphylaxis is on the rise because people consume foods they think are “safe” when they’re actually contaminated with allergens. [2] It happens easily and it’s scary, but knowing where they hide provides valuable insight for your family’s safety.


Where Do You Find Hidden Food Allergens?


Remember, we’re here to empower, not overwhelm you. Take a deep breath, and let’s get into where these problematic protein particles lurk.


“Natural flavorings” often contain trace amounts of the top infant food allergies, like corn, soy, and dairy. You’ll find these flavorings in tons of products, from sauces to seasonings. Sorry; we know this one really stings.


Another problem? Uncommon names for food proteins. For example, did you know that egg protein can be labeled as “lysozyme” and “albumin”? (As if label-reading wasn’t already a drain…) Since the smallest protein particles can cause a reaction if your baby has food allergies, not knowing these terms can spike your stress.


Cross-contamination adds another headache to your already-busy mind. Have you found “safe” deli meat? Well, get ready to be the person who says, “clean the machine and change your gloves please.” If they cut cheese and deli meat with the same slicer — those trace amounts of dairy in breast milk can cause a reaction in some babies.


Surprising areas food proteins can hide:

  • Medications

  • Vitamins

  • Shampoos

  • Lotions

  • Detergents



We know it’s a lot to take in but remember you are not alone.



What To Do if You Realize You’ve Been Consuming a Hidden Allergen?


After you ugly cry — you’ll probably cry a little more. Whether it’s been a week or a month, finding out you’ve been consuming a hidden allergen feels like the biggest failure as a parent. You’ve sacrificed so much and changed your life drastically to keep your baby healthy, all to feel like it was for nothing.


It was an accident. You’re human. Forgive yourself. Please!


Understand it's only a small part of being a food allergy parent and one setback on your journey. Most parents want to know what to do right away, for good reason.


This answer is a little more complicated. But we can share some helpful tips:

  • First off, understand that it does not take weeks for proteins to leave your breastmilk. This myth alone makes our blood boil and confuses so many parents. Make sure to read our blog on this topic here.

  • Second, this may be harder on you than on your baby. Of course, any reaction is horrible, but there is a solution to finding hidden allergens. Free to Feed supports you with personal guidance and direction on hidden food allergies. If you need a different supplement option, that’ll be a different plan than what to do after finding out you ate beef broth you thought was safe. Our one-on-one consults are tailored to your specific situation.

  • Finally, many processed and packaged foods are a source of hidden allergens. Eating fresh whole foods, like fruits and vegetables, assures you’re not eating anything that could potentially hurt your baby. We know this limits traditional flavors and convenience (we seriously aren’t trying to suck any more joy out of your life). Importantly, it can nail down triggers so you get to baseline faster.


Having a slip-up or finding out you’ve been eating a hidden allergen flat out sucks. But remember all the other good you’re doing for your baby. You really are incredible!


Free to Feed Understands The Struggle — We’re Here For You


We’re food allergy experts here to get your family answers. We can’t tell you how many of our Free to Feed parents learn they’ve been accidentally eating hidden allergens. Even with helpful lists and trying your best, they can sneak by.


Free to Feed’s Allergy Support Package gets you answers quickly and empowers you along your journey.


You get resources, guidance, and support to enjoy this time as a parent.


We constantly provide new up-to-date information to help along the way. We want you to succeed and not suffer any longer than you have to. We know what it’s like being in the trenches. Let’s get your family out!


It IS possible to breastfeed your baby with food allergies — we can help.


Resources:

  1. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/food-allergies

  2. ​​https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2019.00673/full