food-allergy sufferers, rejoice

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LABEL LINGO

Get-real solutions for eating healthy, without the hassle A new law takes the mystery--and danger-- out of ingredient lists.

HAVE YOU EVER seen lactoglobulin or albumin on a food label and wondered, "What on earth?" Deciphering such scientific terms (which refer to substances in milk and egg, respectively) can be a matter of life or death for some of the estimated 12 million people in the United States with food allergies. While some sufferers end up with nothing more than a bothersome rash, more than 30,000 require emergency treatment as a result. So it's good news that a new federal law will require all food producers to list ingredients in plain English.

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act will go into effect on January l, 2006. It calls for the eight most common allergy-inducing ingredients--milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy products, and wheat--to be listed clearly on labels in language even kids can understand. The bill also includes guidelines for using the phrase "gluten-free," as a service to people who have celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that is triggered by gluten (a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley).

The measure has been 4 years in the making, and with the number of food-allergy sufferers--and awareness--on the rise, the timing is right. Experts speculate the rise could be due to what has been dubbed the "hygiene hypothesis," says Steve Taylor, Ph.D., co-director of the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

"Our living environments are too clean, and our immune systems, instead of being busy warding off invaders, then have time to do mischief," Taylor explains.

So what should you do until the law goes into effect? Use our lexicon at right to figure out what's hiding in your food.

in plain sight
Until the new food-allergy legislation becomes law in January 2006, here's how to decipher terms for common allergens. (Log on to www.foodallergy.org for more information.)

MILK
What the label might say: lactoglobulin, whey, casein. Where it might be hiding: caramel, nougat, luncheon meat, high-protein flour.

EGGS
What the label might say: albumin, lysozyme. Where they might be hiding: marshmallows, macaroni.

SOY
What the label might say: textured vegetable protein. Where it might be hiding: vegetable broth, miso, tempeh.

WHEAT
What the label might say' semolina, gluten, bran, bulgur, durum, spelt. Where it might be hiding: soy sauce.

TREE NUTS
What the label might say' almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, pralines, walnuts. Where they might be hiding: nougat, pesto.

PEANUTS
What the label might say: beer nuts. Where they might be hiding: egg rolls, enchilada sauce, marzipan.

SEAFOOD
What the label might say: mollusks, langoustine, escargot, calamari. Where it might be hiding: seafood flavoring, fish stock, bouillabaisse.

ALLERGY TIP SHEET
Create a personalized, wallet-size card that details your specific food allergy (perfect for handing to your waiter when you order at a restaurant) at www.foodallergybuddy.com.

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By Kimberlee Roth

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