non-food products - invisibly allergic blog

Top Allergens In Non-Food Products

Top 8 Allergens In Non-Food Products

Do you know what “Prunus Dulcis” means? It’s the Latin and scientific word for almond. What about “Arachidyl Propionate”? I’ll give you a clue, “Arachidyl” means peanut in Latin.

It’s unfortunate, but the top 8 allergens are often used in products outside of the food that we consume. Navigating these “non-food product” allergens can be difficult because the labeling requirements are different for products you aren’t meant to be ingesting. If you thought the U.S. food labeling laws were bad, which they are, non-food product requirements are far more relaxed. The top 8 allergen-containing ingredients are not required to be in bold, and in fact, a full ingredients list isn’t even required to be released. It’s completely possible that topically applied products can still cause an allergic reaction, a reaction the same as if the allergen was eaten. I mean, the skin is our largest organ, after all!

Top 8 Allergens Go By Many Names

That’s right, on top of the lack of transparent labeling required by companies, top allergens are often in non-food products listed under different names than you would expect.

Now that you know there are alternative names for peanuts, tree nuts, and the other top 8 allergens in the U.S. you’re probably wondering what those alternate names are. Don’t worry, I’ll cover some common allergen alternative names for each. This blog post is meant to raise awareness about our lack of overall labeling laws in the country and is not meant to be the only guide you look to for this type of information. I’m going to link out to authoritative sources on the subject as well later on and throughout this post, and provide visual examples of allergens in non-food products. 

Common Non-Food Products To Check For Allergens

  • Lotion
  • Sunscreen
  • Soap
  • Exfoliants
  • Auto oil, grease, solvents & 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)
  • Furniture polish
  • Pet food & treats
  • Birdseed, livestock feed, gerbil/hamster/rodent food
  • Ant traps 
  • Squirrel & critter traps 
  • Tattoo ink (which isn’t regulated)

Naturally Derived Ingredients

When you’re looking at the ingredient list of a product, it may list naturally-sourced ingredients or naturally-sourced oils such as, “natural essences” “naturally derived dyes” or “natural scents”, giving no context as to what the natural source is. Have you ever noticed this before?

At first, I thought, “nice, it’s all natural!” But then reality set in that I have no clue what “natural” means. Since there’s no requirement in the United States that ingredients need to be disclosed to the consumer, if a non-food product contains an allergen derivative, we (the consumers) won’t know. 

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. All this does is clear them of any potential liability, which is great for them, and not helpful for someone like me who wants to use a product but needs a full ingredient list. 

If Companies Aren’t Required To Do Something, They Won’t Do It

This is a common food allergy struggle I run into where companies aren’t willing to provide an ingredient list, so they don’t provide anything to me at all. There’s no pressure on companies to be more transparent regarding allergens, and there should be, I want to create pressure and let them know I’m boycotting their products and telling others to as well. Especially when it’s life or death for someone. However, even if someone wants to know the ingredients for other health-conscious purposes, it’s my belief that the consumer should have the information to be able to make an educated decision. I imagine most people want to know what they’re potentially putting on and/or around their body and breathing in particles from.

I most often notice cleaning product labels and cosmetic labels without full ingredient lists. You may notice these labels because they will read something like, “Key Ingredients” and will list what is in 97% of the product, but leave out the other 3%. I learned from 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” … agreed! Also, non-food ingredients are often able to be left off the package if it’s a small bottle or box. Have you ever heard someone mention they think they have a dish soap allergy? This is a common “allergy” I’ve seen talked about in online forums, and it’s due to non-food products containing chemicals, allergens, and ingredients that don’t have to be disclosed.

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. 

For people with egg, milk, and dairy allergies, medications and non-food products are something to look into. I have seen egg and milk as ingredients commonly while checking if medications and non-food items contain peanuts. I’m certain people with tree nut allergies reading this are all too familiar, because tree nuts are even more common to contain nut oil and shells, 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 are very common. Watch out for “all-natural” cleaning sponges containing walnuts shells.

Pharmacists, Allergists, and Doctors Aren’t Always Aware of Our Lack Of Labeling Laws

I’ve found that most doctors and pharmacists aren’t aware of our lack of labeling laws, food related, medicine-related, and non-food related! Trust me, I’ve asked my fair share of medical professionals and pharmacists about this, probably upwards of 30, and none have ever known about this life-threatening issue and lack of consumer protection.

To be honest, I’ve started asking doctors that I see and go to, to find out their level of awareness and then, in turn, raise lack of labeling awareness. I explain that companies may use peanut oil and top 8 allergens in medications and topical solutions, and have even showed them the ingredients of some products online that I was looking into buying that used peanut-derived ingredients. They’ve all been surprised.

I once asked a board-certified allergist about a nasal spray and some eye drops that I’d seen on an allergy forum in the US that contained 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 list that actually contained “arachis oil”, the Latin name for peanut oil, and he was shocked.

Here are some examples I’ve gathered. I’m peanut-reactive and mostly aware of that allergen in my day-to-day, so 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:

invisibly allergic top 8 allergens in non-food products_topical oil

I share this not to diss allergists, doctors, and pharmacists, but to show how widely unknown our lack of labeling laws are. My assumption and hope is that if people understood how little was required to be released, and how other countries are requiring labeling way better than the U.S., people would demand change and new laws that support consumers.

I only learned about the potential of top allergens in medication after having joined a Facebook peanut allergy awareness group online, where people often post about certain lotions and products they’ve discovered contain their allergen.

This Can Be Life-Threatening For Food Allergy Families

This lack of labeling knowledge in the medical field is a major problem in my eyes, because you’d hope an allergist would pass this life-saving information onto food allergic families navigating the food allergy space. So far, I’ve never had an allergist that knew “may contain” statements were optional and unregulated on food products, and I’ll update this section if that changes. Every allergist I’ve spoken to thought that “may contain” labels were a legal requirement, the same way top 8 allergens are required to be in bolden if they purposefully contain the ingredient. That’s not correct. 

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. The problem is that it isn’t talked about so people don’t know the truth. The truth that companies are able to do as they please without repercussions, even though millions of lives are on the line. Spread the word! 

12 Latin Terms, Scientific Names, and Alternative Names for Allergens

Checking and knowing the Latin, scientific, and alternative names of your allergen is an important starting point when you have a food allergy, since often that is what is listed on non-food products.

I’ve listed out common examples here and links to additional resources:

  1. Almond (sweet) – Prunus amygdalus dulcis, also referred to as just prunus dulcis, meaning “almond”.
  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 L., this is the scientific name and Latin name for peanut. Other names for peanuts on labels could be arachidyl glucoside, arachidyl propionate, and arachidyl alcohol. Arachidyl alcohol and arachidyl propionate are both common in skin care products. Speaking of other names for peanuts, ScienceDirect states, “peanuts are also commonly known as peanut, groundnut, monkey nut, goober, or earth nut because the seeds develop underground.”
  11. Soybean – Glycine soja Sieb
  12. Walnut – Juglans regia and other Juglan species, the latin name for walnut is Juglans regia, however, the latin name for black walnut is Juglans nigra.

Additional Resources

Non-Food Products Need To Have Standardized, Transparent Labeling

I’m sharing this information so others can be cautious of what we’re putting in or on our bodies, 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 due to my peanut allergy, and don’t always stay current with other allergens. 

Invisibly Allergic Food Allergy Blog

If you haven’t already, check out the food allergy resources tab of Invisibly Allergic. 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 every food allergy is different, so proceed with caution!

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