non-food products - invisibly allergic blog

Allergens In Non-Food Products, Latin Names & More

What Allergens Are In My Non-Food Products?

Peanut ingredients and the other top 8 allergens (“Top 8” refers to the group of the most common major food allergens in the U.S.) are often used in products outside of the food that you consume. Navigating non-food product allergens can be difficult, since the labeling requirements are different for products you aren’t meant to be ingesting, and far more relaxed. 

In my food allergy resources tab of my website, I have a document I put together on ‘Non-Food Peanut Products’, which covers a lot of the same information here but in more of a printer-friendly and easy-to-reference format. It has frequently used items I’ve discovered ‘may contain’ or do contain peanut ingredients and other common allergens. It isn’t extremely comprehensive and is not meant to remain up-to-date forever, but it is a resource I put together for others to get an idea of what types of products to be on the lookout for, and I refer back to it myself often for this same reason. It’s important to note that not all food allergy folks will react to these items, since every food allergy is different, so proceed with caution!

Examples Of Non-Food Products To Check For Top Allergens 

  • Lotion
  • Sunscreen
  • Soap
  • Exfoliants
  • Auto oil, grease, solvents and degreasing agents
  • Vitamin supplements & prescription medication
  • Eye & Ear Drops
  • Laundry detergent 
  • Body oil
  • Make-up
  • Make-up remover
  • Dryer Sheets
  • Household cleaning products (such as Swiffer wet & dry pads)
  • Pet food & treats
  • Birdseed, livestock feed, gerbil/hamster/rodent food
  • Ant traps 
  • Squirrel & critter traps 
  • Furniture polish

Lack Of Labeling Requirements For Non-Food Products

I’ve e-mailed and called companies of all types of products and prescription medications asking direct questions about if they use any peanut ingredients in their products and usually receive either no reply at all, or a vague, non-specific answer encouraging me that there may always be a chance, so it’s an at-your-own-risk type of thing. This clears them of any potential liability, which is great for them, and not helpful for someone like me who wants to use a product but ideally needs a full ingredient list. This is a common issue I run into where companies aren’t willing to provide an ingredient list so they don’t provide anything at all. There’s no pressure on companies to be more transparent regarding allergens, but also, even just for health conscious purposes, I imagine most people want to know what they’re potentially putting on and/or around their body and breathing in particles from.

I often run into cleaning product labels without a full ingredient list, I’m sure you have, too. Where it says something like “Key Ingredients” and lists what is in 97% of the product, but leaves out the other 3%. I learned from an article on ewg.org that, “Cleaning products, unlike foods, beverages, cosmetics and other personal care products, are not required by federal law to carry a list of ingredients… They rarely provide these details on the product labels, where consumers can see them in the store.” So there you have it, it goes on to say, “consumers are in the dark“… I’ll say! Since non-food labeling requirements vary, and are often able to be left off the package, especially if it’s a small bottle or box. The rules surrounding non-food products aren’t as strict since it isn’t being eaten through the mouth, however, it’s completely possible that topically these products it can still cause a reaction, the skin is our largest organ after all!!

The Mystery Of “Naturally Derived Ingredients”

When you’re looking at the ingredient list of a product, it may list naturally sourced ingredients or oils such as, “natural essences” “naturally derived dyes” or “natural scents”, giving no context as to what the natural source is. At first you may think, “Nice, it’s natural!”, but then reality sets in that you have no clue what that means. To reiterate, there’s no requirement in the United States that requires if a non-food product contains an allergen or allergen derivative that it has to be fully disclosed to the consumer. Unless the item is meant for human consumption, the ingredients list can be much more relaxed and there’s no requirement for them to release the full ingredients list to the public. 

Tattoo Ink Isn’t Regulated

Learning tattoo ink wasn’t regulated was something I was surprised by. When I inquired about the dye before getting my first tattoo, I had a hard time nailing down if it was risky for a peanut allergy or not after googling. Luckily, it didn’t appear to be afterwards, because between my internet searching and asking a few tattoo artists, we couldn’t determine anything super conclusive. This led me to learning that often tattoo dye is a risk for metal allergies, which I do have an allergy to metal, but isn’t as serious as my allergy to peanuts. Typically my metal allergy results in a rash, and I avoid certain metals coming into contact with my skin, and avoid any metal in medications like colloidal silver cream. In fact, it seems there may be a link between peanut allergies and metal allergies. I haven’t found specific sources to back this up, but I have been told this by multiple allergists.

It Can Be Impossible To Get Ingredient Lists For Non-Food Products

In my experience, obtaining any full ingredient list or ‘may contain’ statement for a food product or non-food product can often be very tricky. It’s unfortunate that the majority of U.S. companies are this way. A vague response is often what I get stating for me to medical care provider for questions, as per usual.

Most Doctors & Pharmacists Aren’t Aware Of Our Lack Of Labeling Laws

I’ve asked my fair share of medical professionals and/or pharmacists about this, probably upwards of 20, and none have ever been aware that companies may use peanut oil and top 8 allergens in medications and topical solutions until I showed them the ingredients of some products online that I was looking into buying. I once asked an allergist about a nasal spray and some eye drops that I’d seen on forums can contain peanut oil, and he said confidently, “they wouldn’t put an allergen in products that are supposed to combat allergies… Ah-ha-ha!” I pulled up the ingredient lists for products I was looking into that ACTUALLY CONTAINED “arachis oil” – the latin name for peanut oil- and he was shocked. I share these images later in this post. I only learned the potential of allergens in medication after having joined the peanut allergy awareness groups online, where people will post about certain lotions and products they’ve discovered contain their allergen.

For people with egg, milk, and dairy allergies medications and non-food products are something to look into, as I have seen egg and milk as ingredients commonly while checking if items contain peanuts. I’m certain people with tree nut allergies reading this are all too familiar, because those definitely are even more common to contain nut oil, and still, the ingredients do not have to be disclosed. I do personally use sweet almond oil and sesame oil on my body as a moisturizer, and I know walnut shells in skin exfoliators and hand soaps, or even “all natural” cleaning sponges commonly contain walnuts shells.

Lastly, I’ve not had an allergist that understood “may contain” statements were optional and unregulated. This is a huge issue, as I believe that allergists should be educating allergic individuals on the lack of food labeling laws in the US. 

12 Latin Terms and Alternative Names for Allergens

Checking the latin name and alternative names of your allergen is an important starting point, since often that is what is listed on non-food products. I’ve listed out common examples here and links to more resources below:

  1. Almond (sweet) – Prunus amygdalus dulcis
  2. Almond (bitter) — Prunus amygdalus amara
  3. Brazil nut – Bertholletia excelsa
  4. Cashew – Anacardium occidentale
  5. Coconut – Cocos nucifera
  6. Egg – Ovo (means egg), for example, ovalbumin, ovomucin, ovotransferrin
  7. Hazelnut/Filbert – Corylus avellana
  8. Milk – lac (cow’s milk – Bos taurus)
  9. Pecan (Hickory) – Carya illinoinensis
  10. Peanut – Arachis hypogea
  11. Soybean – Glycine soja Sieb
  12. Walnut – Juglans regia and other Juglan species

This allergic living resource I’ve used when looking for alternative names and latin names of allergens. The Nut Free Wok food allergy blog I use for managing my own allergy, and they have a sheet of common latin names for allergens as well. Here is an egg allergy specific avoidance list which I highly suggest looking at if you have or manage an egg allergy.

Medications Containing Peanut Oil [With Examples]

Since I am peanut-reactive and mostly aware of that allergen in my day-to-day, I’ve attached a few eye-opening examples from the peanut allergy forum below of products that contain peanut oil, one being an asthma inhaler:

 

img_4640

 

There you have it! I share this so others are extra aware and cautious of what you’re putting in or on your body, or in/on the body of an allergic individual, such as a food allergic child. Please feel free to contact me if you find any food products or non-food products that surprisingly contain allergen ingredients, I’m always on the lookout for peanuts but don’t always stay current with other allergens. 

-Zoë

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