Read the ingredients

What's wheat doing in my veggie patty? How did corn get in my cola? You may think you know what you're eating, but reading the ingredient label can reveal some surprises. Knowing what to look for helps too. If you have allergies, being able to navigate ingredient labels is critical. It may even safe your life.

Know your enemy. We have no cure for food allergies or intolerances, so avoiding your allergen is a key management technique. Many of us have the luxury of not needing to read the label or consider the ingredients of the food we eat. But living with a food allergy demands extra sleuthing. Some pitfalls are obvious and easy to identify, such as avoiding nut butters when you're allergic to nuts, but others require more detective work. For example, wheat can appear as an ingredient in imitation meat or seafood products, or it may turn up in ice cream. Soy could appear in your peanut butter, canned tuna or baby formula. Get into the habit of always checking ingredient labels. And remember, manufacturers may change their ingredients at any time, so don't lower your guard.

That food may be travelling under an assumed name. To add to the complexity, some ingredients and their products can take on different names, so they require more advanced detecting skills. Did you know that cornstarch is a popular sweetener used by food manufacturers? A few of its hiding places include salad dressings, frozen puddings, beverages, and canned fruit. If corn is not your friend, you'll need to be able to recognize it under its aliases such as dextrose, corn syrup, maltodextrin, and crystalline fructose. Similarly, peanut oil may use the name "arachis oil," or the term "artificial nuts" may include peanut products. Eggs might hide out under different names such as albumin or ovomucoid and pop up in places such as meatballs, foamed toppings in coffee, or baked goods.

Look for stowaways in your pantry. Finally, as if allergens didn't have disguises enough, sometimes ingredients can just sneak into the manufacturing process unannounced. To combat this, Health Canada, together with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, publishes allergy alerts to inform Canadians about undeclared ingredients in processed food. Don't let allergens hide in your cupboard. Stay safe and keep checking the alerts at

Bottom line: If you or someone in your family has a food allergy, talk to your doctor about what foods to avoid and what foods to stay on the lookout for. Your doctor may also suggest you speak with a dietitian to ensure you still meet all your nutritional requirements despite having eliminated certain foods from your diet.

Print out our "Spot the Alias" table of alternate names for common food allergens in a format to take with you when buying food!

Spot the Alias

An egg by any other name… can be confusing! Watch for these possible aliases of common allergens.*

corn sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, cornstarch, crystalline fructose, crystalline glucose, dextrose, glucose, glucose syrup, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), lecithin (from corn), maltodextrin

albumin, conalbumin, egg substitutes, globulin, lecithin (from egg), livetin, lysozyme, meringue, ovalbumin, ovomacroglobulin, ovomucin, ovomucoid, ovotransferrin, ovovitellin, silico-albuminate, Simplesse®, vitellin

fish (includes crustaceans and shellfish)
anchovy, bass, bluefish, calamari, carp, catfish, char, clam, cod, cockle, conch, crab, crayfish, eel, escargot, halibut, herring, lobster, mackerel, mahi-mahi, marlin, mussels, octopus, orange roughy, pickerel, pike, pollock, prawns, rockfish, salmon, sardine, shark, shrimp, scallops, sea urchin, smelt, snails, snapper, swordfish, squid, tilapia, trout, tuna (albacore/yellow fin/bonito), walleye, white fish

ammonium caseinate, calcium caseinate, magnesium caseinate, potassium caseinate, sodium caseinate, casein, caseinate, curds, dry milk, hydrolyzed casein, hydrolyzed milk protein, lactalbumin, lactate, lactoferrin, lactoglobulin, lactose, modified milk ingredients, Opta™, sour cream, sour milk solids, whey, whey protein concentrate, rennet

arachide, arachis oil, beer nuts, cacahouète, cacahouette, cacahuète, goober nuts, goober peas, ground nuts, mandelonas, Nu-Nuts™, nut meats, valencias

sesame, sesame seed
benne, benne seed, benniseed, flavouring, gingelly, gingelly oil, seeds, sesamol, sesamolina, sesamum indicum, sim sim, tahina, tahini, til, vegetable oil

edamame, lecithin (from soybeans), kinako, kouridofu, miso, monoglyceride, diglyceride, natto, okara, soya, soja, soybean, soyabeans, soybean curds, soy protein (isolate/concentrate), tempeh, textured soy flour (TSF), textured soy protein (TSP), textured vegetable protein (TVP), tofu, vegetable protein, yuba

calcium sulphite, calcium bisulphite, potassium bisulphite, potassium metabisulphite, sodium sulphite, sodium bisulphite, sodium metabisulphite, sulphiting agent, sulphur dioxide, sulphurous acid, E220, E221, E222, E223, E224, E225, E226, E227, E228

tree nuts (includes almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts [filberts], macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachio nuts, and walnuts)
almond paste, anacardium nuts, calisson, mandelonas, marzipan, nut meats, Nu-Nuts™, pignolias, Queensland nut

atta, bulgur, couscous, durum, einkorn, emmer, enriched/white/whole wheat flour, farina, gluten, graham flour, high gluten flour, kamut, protein flour, seitan, semolina, spelt (dinkel/farro), triticale, Triticum aestivum, wheat bran, wheat germ, wheat starch

*Note: This guide should not be considered the final word on your allergen and its "aliases" – speak to your doctor about obtaining a complete list.

Print out this list in a pocket-friendly format!

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