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Shellfish Allergy Diet

General guidelines for shellfish allergies

The key to an allergy-free diet is to stay away from all foods or products containing the food to which you are allergic. If you're allergic to shellfish, you'll need to stay away from foods that contain shellfish. To do this, you must read food labels.

There are 2 types of shellfish: crustaceans and mollusks. It's more common to have an allergy to crustacean shellfish. Talk with your healthcare provider to make sure you know what you're allergic to and what to avoid.

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) is a law that requires U.S. packaged foods to state clearly on the label if they contain crustacean shellfish. Mollusks aren't required to be listed on the label.

How to read a label for a shellfish-free diet

Don't eat foods that have any of these ingredients:

  • Abalone

  • Barnacle

  • Krill

  • Clams, such as cherrystone, littleneck, Pismo, and quahog

  • Crab

  • Crawfish, crayfish (écrevisse), crawdad 

  • Lobster, langouste, langoustine, scampi, coral, tomalley

  • Mollusks

  • Mussels

  • Squid (calamari)

  • Snail (escargot)

  • Oysters

  • Octopus

  • Scallops

  • Shrimp, prawns, crevette

These foods may also contain shellfish:

  • Bouillabaisse

  • Cuttlefish ink

  • Fish stock or fish sauce

  • Seafood flavoring

  • Glucosamine

  • Surimi

Important points

Always read the entire ingredient label to look for shellfish. Shellfish may be in the ingredient list. Or it could be listed in a “Contains: Shellfish” statement below the ingredient list.

Foods that don't contain shellfish could be contaminated during manufacturing. Advisory statements are not regulated by the FDA. They are voluntary. These include label notes such as "processed in a facility that also processes shellfish." Or "made on shared equipment." Ask your healthcare provider if it's safe to eat products with these labels or if you should stay away from them.

Some foods and products are not covered by the FALCPA law. These include:

  • Foods that aren't regulated by the FDA

  • Makeup and personal care items

  • Prescription and over-the-counter medicines and supplements

  • Toys, crafts, and pet foods

When you are eating out

  • Always carry 2 epinephrine auto-injectors. Make sure you and those close to you know how to use them.

  • Wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace with your allergy information.

  • If you don't have epinephrine auto-injectors, talk with your healthcare provider. Ask if you should carry them.

  • In a restaurant, food may be cross-contaminated with shellfish or seafood.

  • Stay away from steam tables or buffets with seafood. This helps to keep you away from the cooking vapors.

  • Some people with allergies will react to cooking odors or touching seafood or shellfish. Avoid fish markets.

  • Always read food labels. And always ask about ingredients at restaurants and tell the restaurant staff that you have an allergy. Do this even if these are places where you've eaten in the past.

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