Fish and Shellfish Allergies

Individuals who suffer from fish or shellfish allergies need to avoid the foods that contain these items. If you accidentally ingest a food item that contain fish or shellfish and are allergic then you can have an allergic reaction that can be severe.

Some of the foods you should avoid if you have fish allergies are any kind of fish, caviar, Roe (which are fish eggs), imitation seafood such as sushi, Caesar salad, Worcestershire sauce, and any kind of seafood dish. Avoid eating in seafood restaurants as even if you order a meal that appears to be non-fish, your meal ingredients may have been cross contaminated with fish products during the food preparation process or from utensils such as a spatula, cooking oil or the heating surfaces used to cook the food having been shared with fish.

Reactions can be Severe

Fish and shellfish allergies, once diagnosed are something that the individual will need to learn how to live with for life. These types of allergies are usually accompanied by severe reactions such as hives, disorientation, breathing difficulties and shock.

Most individuals have a cross-reactivity to both fish and shellfish; in other words if they are allergic to one; they are allergic to the other.

Some individuals who are allergic to shellfish are not allergic to mollusks, which are clams, scallops, oysters and mussels.

Separate allergy testing is done for shellfish using the shellfish mix skin prick test and fish using the fish mix skin prick test. The fish mix skin prick test tests for cod, tuna, mackerel and salmon while the shellfish mix skin prick test tests for a combination of shellfish.

Other Problems

Individuals who are not allergic to fish can have an allergic reaction to “spoiled fish”.

Sometimes an imitation is used for crab or shrimp that does not contain shellfish it contain fish. Such an imitation is Surimi, which is a processed Alaskan pollack.

If you, or your child has fish or shellfish allergies it is best not to eat in seafood restaurants where cross-contamination can occur during the food processing and heating procedures.

If you have a shellfish allergy stay away from all shellfish such as crab, lobster, shrimp and snails.

Avoid These

Common shellfish and fish dishes to be careful to avoid are: paella, bouillabaisse, gumbo, frito misto, fruits de mer, and oriental foods as they tend to contain lots of different kinds of fish, or chopped pieces of fish that can be difficult to identify mixed in with other foods.

Surimi usually is made from white fish, but can contain shellfish extract. Surimi may be in certain processed foods such as some pizza toppings. Caesar salad dressings usually contain anchovies. Other items to avoid are: caponata, a sweet and sour Sicilian relish that contains anchovies, Kedgeree which is a rice and fish dish, Patum Peperium which is made from anchovies and most Oriental sauces, pastes and prepared meals.

Individuals with shellfish allergies are usually told to also avoid products that include iodine. You can find iodine in seaweed, cleaning products, and also X-ray dyes.

Your healthcare provider or allergist should be able to provide you with a list of all foods to avoid. Ask to receive any updated lists as there are always new products being created or new processed ingredient names that you should be told about so that you can avoid those that contain fish or shellfish.

Be aware of spices, and flavorings when preparing foods as some can contain fish or fish parts or shellfish.

The U.S. Food Allergy Labeling Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), which was passed in 2004, requires all labels to be capable of being read by a seven year old so that it can be easier for people to determine if food contains fish, shellfish or other food allergens making it easier for consumers to protect themselves.