Food Allergens in Non-Food Items

One of our readers, Gail Sangregorio, recently pointed out that people with food allergies or parents of children with food allergies are often so concerned about particular foods that they overlook food allergens in non-food items. As a grandmother of a child with food allergies, she wanted more information on products like “bean bag chairs stuffed with peanut shells and certain craft items, like paint or Moon Sand, made with peanut/tree nut oils.”

This is a fairly common and valid concern. Food allergens in craft items especially have been known to trigger reactions. Following are some items you may need to be careful with, depending on what you or your child is allergic to:

  • Play Dough: The Play Dough you buy in stores contains wheat.
  • Paints: Paints may contain food ingredients that make them safe for most kids but dangerous for kids with food allergies.
  • Adhesives: Many glues and other adhesives contain wheat, so if you’re allergic to wheat, steer clear of envelopes, stamps, and stickers you have to lick to moisten the adhesive. Lean toward using self-adhesive envelopes and stamps.
  • Medications, vitamins, and supplements: Although a particular medication, vitamin, or supplement may not trigger a reaction, some of the ingredients used to manufacture the pill may include milk, wheat, soy, and other allergens. Be sure to check both the active and inactive (or inert) ingredients.
  • Soaps: Certain soaps my contain soy, milk, nut oils, and other ingredients you might never imagine would be found in soap.
  • Shampoos and other hair care products: Shampoo, conditioner, and some dyes may include wheat or wheat extracts, almond and other nut oils, soy protein, and other allergens.
  • Hand and body lotions: Many lotions contain coconut, tree nut, sesame, or Arachis (derived from peanut) oil. They may also contain “extracts” of grains, including wheat.
  • Makeup: Lipstick and other makeup may include wheat, sesame oil, or other allergens.
  • Fruit and vegetable rinses: Many fruit and vegetable rinses contain starch, which could be made from wheat, potato, corn, or rice.
  • Stuffed toys or chairs: As Gail pointed out, the stuffing in bean bag chairs could include ground up peanut or tree nut shells. Some stuffed animals that feel like bean bags can also include this type of stuffing.
  • Pet food: Food for dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and other pets can contain wheat, peanut, egg, milk, and a host of other ingredients that can trigger reactions.
  • Bird seed: In addition to the seeds, some mixes may contain peanut, wheat, milk, and other allergens.

These items pose varying degrees of risk. Pet foods that contain allergens are obviously more risky if you have a toddler rather than a teenager with food allergies. The risk of a contact reaction from a beanbag chair that contains peanut is likely to be less than an ingestion reaction a child with wheat allergy may have by eating Play Dough. However, the safest option is to purchase products that do not contain the food items you or your child is allergic to. It is also important to remind your child’s teachers that no food items can be used in craft projects without your permission.

Caution: Before you buy and use any of these non-food items, be sure to check the label. If the label is missing or unclear, then call the manufacturer and ask for a comprehensive list of ingredients.