food allergy awareness

7 Food Allergies You Didn't Know About

Drea Bocook had no idea a glass of pure cranberry juice could turn her face red and swollen immediately. After calling a nurse’s hotline, the provider suggested taking children’s Benadryl and drinking plenty of water to ease her symptoms.

Bocook, a 45-year-old executive assistant based in Des Moines, said she never had a problem with cranberries until her 30s, but she grew up being allergic to pine trees, which are in the same plant family.

“The theory was that because it was at such a high concentration, it kicked that allergy into high gear,” Bocook told Verywell.

Bocook has since avoided supplements and medicines containing cranberries and products with natural red food dyes made from the berry. She also has to be alert when she orders a granola or salad with dried fruit because it’s hard to tell the difference between dried cherries and dried cranberries.

“I have my EpiPens with me just in case and I also always carry chewable Benadryl,” she said.

In the United States, nine major food allergens are recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soybeans, and sesame. While these nine items cause the majority of food allergies in the U.S., over 160 foods have been shown to cause allergic reactions.

Sometimes, people with less common food allergies may have a hard time getting a diagnosis or may not even realize that certain food can trigger reactions like hives, diarrhea, and stomach pain. A severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, can lead to life-threatening symptoms such as wheezing, low blood pressure, and loss of consciousness.

The FDA only requires food allergy labels for the nine major allergens. If you have a rare food allergy, you might have to pay closer attention to ingredient lists and double-check with restaurant staff.

Here are some uncommon food allergies that might be harder to detect if you didn’t know about them.


peach allergy
Illustration by Zoe Hansen for Verywell Health.

If you’ve watched Parasite, you might remember peach allergy as a crucial part of the scheme to oust the housekeeper. Peach allergies, in reality, are more common in Europe, especially in the Mediterranean region.

In northern and central Europe, people who are allergic to peaches may have a birch-pollen allergy, which includes other fruits like apples, pears, and cherries.

“If you cook the fruit or the vegetables, those allergens that resemble birch are destroyed,” said Maya R. Jerath, MD, PhD, clinic director and professor of medicine in the division of allergy and immunology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

In the Mediterranean area, though, people with peach allergy generally don’t have a birch-pollen allergy. Instead, they’re more sensitive to something called non-specific lipid-transfer proteins, a type of biochemical that’s found on fuzzy peach skin.

Red Meat

Red meat allergy, also called alpha-gal allergy, can cause hives, diarrhea, or trouble breathing about two to six hours after eating red meat. Jerath, who researches alpha-gal syndrome, said it might be related to tick bites.

Some researchers have attributed the syndrome to the lone star tick, which was more commonly found in the southern U.S. But these ticks might be migrating to the Midwest and Northeast due to climate change.

“This is an allergy that comes on in people who were previously completely fine and were tolerating eating red meat,” she said. In addition to red meat, people with alpha-gal syndrome might also react to dairy and animal-based gelatin products.

The good news is not everyone with alpha-gal has to swear off red meat forever. "I have some patients who have gone back to eating meat now. They’re no longer allergic to it. So it’s not necessarily a lifelong sentence,” Jerath aid. “We don’t exactly know how people clear it and why some people don’t.”


People with pork allergies may experience an immediate immune response after eating pork or its byproducts, such as bacon.

“It’s pretty reproducible, so every time you eat any pork product you should have an allergic reaction, whether it’s bacon, ham, or sausage,” Jerath said.

Pork ingredients can be found in a wide range of foods, including chili sauces, sodas, potato chips, and more.

Some people have pork-cat syndrome because proteins in pork are similar to some proteins in cats. If you are allergic to cats, that doesn’t mean you automatically have a pork allergy, but people with pork allergies are often allergic to cats.


Illustration by Zoe Hansen for Verywell Health.

Since avocados are mainly served raw, there's not really a way to kill off the allergens through heat.

“If you have it, you are kind of stuck with not being able to consume avocado at all,” Jerath said.

An avocado allergy might be due to the latex-fruit syndrome. Foods like avocados, bananas, and kiwi have proteins that are similar to latex, a protein found in rubber tree sap. About 30-50% of people with a latex allergy have latex-fruit syndrome.


A nickel allergy is often associated with skin irritation, but it might mean that you also have to avoid foods that are high in nickel, including chocolate and legumes.

Sarah Felbin, 23, said she gets canker sores in her throat and mouth that can last up to a week after eating nickel-containing foods. Canned foods are often a problem for her because beans, tomatoes, or other packaged food items may absorb nickel from the can.

“I try to be mindful of what I order. I'm only going to order pasta at an Italian restaurant where I'm reasonably sure they're making the sauce from scratch,” Felbin told Verywell.


Gelatin, a natural thickener made from animal collagen, is used to give Jell-O, marshmallows, and panna cotta their distinct textures. 

Gelatin allergy is rare, but people who have it are more likely to have a reaction to chewy candies since the gelatin in these products is “more concentrated and processed differently,” according to Scott H. Sicherer, MD, a professor of pediatrics and director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

Some vaccines include gelatin as a stabilizer. If you’re allergic to gelatin, you should consider speaking to an allergist before getting jabbed.


wine allergy
Illustration by Zoe Hansen for Verywell Health.

Although very rare, some people can have allergic reactions triggered by proteins, mold, or enzymes in wine.

It’s more common for people to have trouble processing the alcohol and experience symptoms of alcohol intolerance, like dizziness, headaches, and vomiting, according to Sicherer. However, alcohol can make regular food allergic reactions worse.

“I call this the wedding shrimp allergy,” he said. For those who usually don’t have problems with shrimp, they can sometimes experience an allergic reaction when it’s combined with alcohol—be aware during wedding season.

Distilled alcohol doesn’t usually cause an allergic reaction, Sicherer added, but the cream in liquors or leftover proteins in beer could be a trigger.

What Is the Difference Between Food Allergies and Food Intolerances?

Not every bad reaction to food is caused by an allergy. People can also experience food poisoning, intolerances, and sensitivities, but when the immune system gets involved, it’s an allergy.

The immune system keeps the body healthy by attacking foreign substances, like bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens, but sometimes food can also trigger an immune response. It might read certain food as an invader and send antibodies to attack the food substance that’s causing allergy symptoms.

Food intolerances, in contrast, often lead to an uncomfortable digestive system response—just ask anyone with lactose intolerance who has given in to a bowl of ice cream.

Caffeine is an example of a common intolerance, according to Sicherer. He said that “someone might be more sensitive to the pharmacologic or chemical effects of caffeine,” but the jittery feeling after that second cup of coffee is not an allergic reaction.

While food intolerances and sensitivities can sometimes take away the joy of culinary experiences, Sicherer said “they’re usually not intrinsically immediately life-threatening.”

“If you really have an allergy to something where you could potentially have a more severe reaction, you’re going to want to talk to your doctor about make sure you have the right diagnosis,” Sicherer said.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Barni S, Caimmi D, Chiera F, et al. Phenotypes and endotypes of peach allergy: what is new?. Nutrients. 2022;14(5):998. doi:10.3390/nu14050998

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alpha-gal syndrome.

  4. Shiratsuki R, Chinuki Y, Fukushiro S, Morita E. A case of pork-cat syndrome that developed as food-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis. Acta Derm Venereol. 2020;100(15):adv00233. doi:10.2340/00015555-3584

  5. Kawai M, Kondo Y, Nakajima Y, et al. Changes in the characteristics of patients with latex allergy from 1999 to 2014. Fujita Med J. 2020;6(3):67-72. doi:10.20407/fmj.2019-013

  6. Harvard School of Public Health. Nickel.

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  8. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Food intolerance versus food allergy.