It is not uncommon for people to have problems when eating fish, but most of the time these reactions are due to food
poisoning and not an allergy. It is estimated that about 4 out of 1000 people are truly allergic to fish. One example of
fish poisoning is called Scombroid fish poisoning which results from eating fish which has not been refrigerated properly
during transport. When the fish is left in warm temperatures, bacteria grows and produces an accumulation of a
chemical called histamine. The bacteria is killed during the cooking process, but the histamine is still present on the fish,
and once ingested, results in symptoms very similar to an allergic reaction which is why it is often mistaken for a fish
allergy. An allergy test, performed by an allergies, can help differentiate between a true fish allergy and food poisoning.
There is no cross- reactivity between fish and shellfish (lobster, crab, shrimp, oyster,..) - so most people who are
allergic to fish are not allergic to shellfish (or vice versa). However, because these 2 types of seafoods are often
stored and prepared in the same area, there is a risk of contamination and it is therefor best for individuals allergic to
fish (or shellfish) to avoid seafood restaurants.
Avoid foods that contain:
- Fish oil supplements (Omega 3)
- Imitation crab meat
- Roe (fish eggs)
- Surimi (imitation crab meat)
These foods may contain fish:
- Caesar salad dressing
- Worcestershire sauce
One should also be careful when eating fried foods (fries, chicken) if the same oil has also been used to fry fish.
People allergic to fish should avoid taking Omega-3 fatty acids made from fish oil. Instead, they should take Omega-
3 fatty acids from walnuts, flax seeds, and flax seed oil.
Carrageenan, often used as a stabilizer or thickener in food, is a red algae and does not need to be avoided by fish
Make sure to check out the coping with food allergies page for school and traveling tips, and useful links including
sites that sell allergy safe foods, medic alert bracelets.
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