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Food and Nutrition

Eggs - One of the ten priority food allergens

2012
Cat. No.: H164-156/3-2012E-PDF (PDF version)
ISBN: 978-1-100-21149-7 (PDF version)
HC Pub.: 120122 (PDF version)

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Allergic reactions

Allergic reactions are severe adverse reactions that occur when the body's immune system overreacts to a particular allergen. These reactions may be caused by food, insect stings, latex, medications and other substances. In Canada, the ten priority food allergens are peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachio nuts and walnuts), sesame seeds, milk, eggs, seafood (fish, crustaceans and shellfish), soy, wheat, sulphites (a food additive) and mustard.

What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction?

When someone comes in contact with an allergen, the symptoms of a reaction may develop quickly and rapidly progress from mild to severe. The most severe form of an allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. Symptoms can include breathing difficulties, a drop in blood pressure or shock, which may result in loss of consciousness and even death. A person experiencing an allergic reaction may have any of the following symptoms:

  • Flushed face, hives or a rash, red and itchy skin
  • Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, throat and tongue
  • Trouble breathing, speaking or swallowing
  • Anxiety, distress, faintness, paleness, sense of doom, weakness
  • Cramps, diarrhea, vomiting
  • A drop in blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, loss of consciousness

How are food allergies and severe allergic reactions treated?

Currently there is no cure for food allergies. The only option for managing the risk is to completely avoid the specific allergen. Appropriate emergency treatment for anaphylaxis (a severe food allergy reaction) includes an injection of epinephrine, which is available in an auto-injector device. Epinephrine must be administered as soon as symptoms of a severe allergic reaction appear. The injection must be followed by further treatment and observation in a hospital emergency room. If your allergist has diagnosed you with a food allergy and prescribed Epinephrine, carry it with you all the time and know how to use it. Follow your allergist's advice on how to use an auto-injector device.

Frequently asked questions about egg allergies

I have an egg allergy. How can I avoid an egg-related reaction?

Avoid all food and products that contain egg or egg derivatives which contain egg protein. These include any product whose ingredient list warns it "may contain" or "may contain traces of" egg.

Can an egg allergy be outgrown?

Studies show that for many children with an egg allergy, the allergy will disappear within a few years. For some, however, severe egg allergy can be a life-long condition. Consult your allergist before reintroducing your child to egg products.

Can a person who is allergic to raw eggs eat cooked eggs?

Some people with a mild egg allergy can safely eat small amounts of cooked eggs, but have reactions to raw eggs. Although cooking can alter the structure of egg protein, some of the allergenic proteins are heat stable, so cooked eggs can still trigger reactions. Consult your allergist before trying any new foods that contain eggs.

Are flu and MMR shots safe for someone with an egg allergy?

Influenza vaccines are grown on egg embryos and may contain traces of egg protein. Consult your allergist before getting a flu shot. Although the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine may also contain egg protein, it is generally considered safe for children. Again, consult your allergist.

Are there any health concerns with processed chicken meat for egg allergic consumers?

Eggs are sometimes present in the bodies of slaughtered mature female birds. Although processes such as rinsing and water-chilling help to remove traces of egg, tests have shown that residual amounts can remain in and on the carcasses of mature poultry and, therefore, in products made from mature poultry. As a result, people with a severe egg allergy have had reactions after consuming processed chicken products containing mature poultry meat. Before consuming products containing poultry meat, review labels carefully for precautionary statements warning about the possible presence of egg.

Does the source of the egg make a difference?

The proteins in eggs from chickens are very similar to those found in eggs from ducks, geese, quails and other types of eggs. Therefore, people who are allergic to eggs from chickens may also experience reactions to the eggs from other species. Consult your allergist before consuming eggs or products made from the eggs of ducks, geese, quail and other types of eggs.

How can I determine if a product contains egg or egg derivatives?

Always read the ingredient list carefully.

If eggs are part of the product formulation, they must be declared in the list of ingredients or in a separate "contains:" statement immediately following the list of ingredients.

What do I do if I am not sure whether a product contains egg or egg derivatives?

If you have an egg allergy, do not eat or use the product. Get ingredient information from the manufacturer.

Does product size affect the likelihood of an allergic reaction?

Product size does not affect the likelihood of a reaction; however, the same brand of product may be safe to consume for one product size but not another. This is because product formulation may vary between different product sizes of the same product.

Avoiding egg and egg derivatives

Make sure you read product labels carefully to avoid products that contain egg and egg derivatives. Avoid food and products that do not have an ingredient list and read labels every time you shop. Manufacturers may occasionally change their recipes or use different ingredients for varieties of the same brand.

Other names for eggs

In the past, some products have used other names for egg on their labels. These names are not permitted without the word egg also appearing on the label, based on the enhanced labelling requirements for food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites. However, if you have an egg allergy and see one of the following in the list of ingredients on a product you should not eat it.

  • Albumin, albumen
  • Conalbumin
  • Egg substitutes, for example, Egg Beaters
  • Globulin
  • Livetin
  • Lysozyme
  • Ovo (means egg), for example, ovalbumin, ovomucin, ovotransferrin
  • Silico-albuminate
  • Vitellin

Food and products that contain or often contain eggs

  • Baked goods (including some type of breads) and baking mixes
  • Battered and fried foods
  • Cream-filled desserts, for example, custards, meringues, puddings and ice creams
  • Egg and fat substitutes
  • Fat replacers, for example, Simplesse
  • Lecithin
  • Mayonnaise
  • Meat products with fillers, for example, meatballs and meatloaf
  • Nougats, marzipan candy
  • Pasta (fresh pasta, some types of dry pasta for example, egg noodles)
  • Quiche, soufflé
  • Salad dressings, creamy dressings
  • Sauces, for example, Béarnaise, hollandaise, Newburg, tartar

Other possible sources of eggs

  • Alcoholic cocktails and drinks, for example, eggnog and whiskey sours
  • Fish mixtures, for example, surimi (used in imitation crab and lobster meat)
  • Foam and milk toppings on coffee
  • Homemade root beer mixes and malt-drink mixes
  • Icing, glazes
  • Meat products with fillers, for example, preprepared hamburger patties, hotdogs and cold cuts
  • Soups, broths and bouillons

Non-food sources of egg

  • Anesthetic, for example, Diprivan (propofol)
  • Craft materials
  • Hair-care products
  • Medications
  • Some vaccines, for example, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella)

Note: These lists are not complete and may change. Food and food products purchased from other countries, through mail-order or the Internet, are not always produced using the same manufacturing and labelling standards as in Canada.

What can I do?

Be informed

See an allergist and educate yourself about food allergies. Contact your local allergy association for further information.

If you or anyone you know has food allergies or would like to receive information about food being recalled, sign up for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) free Next link will take you to another Web site e-mail "Food Recalls and Allergy Alerts" notification service. When you sign up you will automatically receive food recall public warnings.

Before eating

Allergists recommend that if you do not have your auto-injector device with you that you do not eat. If the label indicates that a product "contains:" or "may contain:" egg or egg derivatives, do not eat it. If you do not recognize an ingredient or there is no ingredient list available, avoid the product.

Watch out for allergen cross contamination!

Cross contamination is the transfer of an ingredient (food allergen) to a product that does not normally have that ingredient in it. Through cross contamination, a food that should not contain the allergen could become dangerous to eat for those who are allergic.

Cross contamination can happen:

  • during food manufacturing through shared production and packaging equipment;
  • at retail through shared equipment, e.g., cheese and deli meats sliced on the same slicer; and through bulk display of food products, e.g., bins of baked goods, bulk nuts; and
  • during food preparation at home or in restaurants through equipment, utensils and hands.

What is the Government of Canada doing about food allergens?

The Government of Canada is committed to providing safe food to all Canadians. The CFIA and Health Canada work closely with municipal, provincial and territorial partners and industry to meet this goal.

The CFIA enforces Canada's labelling laws and works with associations, distributors, food manufacturers and importers to ensure complete and appropriate labelling of all foods. The CFIA recommends that food companies establish effective allergen controls to prevent the occurrence of undeclared allergens and cross-contamination. The CFIA has developed guidelines and tools to aid them in developing these controls. When the CFIA becomes aware of a potential serious hazard associated with a food, such as undeclared allergens, the food product is recalled from the marketplace and a public warning is issued. The CFIA has also published several advisories to industry and consumers regarding allergens in food.

Health Canada has worked with the medical community, consumer associations, and the food industry to enhance labelling regulations for priority allergens, gluten sources and sulphites in pre-packaged food sold in Canada. Health Canada has amended the Food and Drug Regulations to require that the most common food and food ingredients that cause life-threatening or severe allergic reactions are always identified by their common names on food labels, allowing consumers to easily recognize them.

More information on the regulations to enhance the labelling of food allergens, gluten sources and added sulphites can be found on the Health Canada website.

If you come across a food that you think is improperly labelled, contact the CFIA and provide information about the product.

Next link will take you to another Web site Report a food safety or labelling concern.

Where can I get more information?

For more information on:

  • food allergies; and
  • subscribing to the "Food Recalls and Allergy Alerts" e-mail notification service,

visit the Next link will take you to another Web site CFIA Website or call 1-800-442-2342/TTY 1-800-465-7735 (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday to Friday).

For information on this and other Government of Canada programs and services call

  • 1-800-O-Canada (1-800-622-6232)
  • TTY 1-800-465-7735

Below are some organizations that can provide additional allergy information:

Developed in consultation with Allergy/Asthma Information Association, Anaphylaxis Canada, Association québécoise des allergies alimentaires, Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and Health Canada.