Having food allergies necessitates strict avoidance of allergens. Accidental ingestion of a particular food can be fatal. A person with multiple food allergens can end up with a very limited list of permissible foods. Keeping kosher involves additional dietary restrictions. The food awareness that kosher observance brings can actually facilitate safe food allergy management.
The Jewish laws of Kashrut prohibit the consumption of certain foods such as: pork, shellfish, and insects. The mixing of dairy and meat is also forbidden. A grocery shopper observing the laws of Kashrut can’t just put any item in their cart. They are careful to buy food with reliable kosher certification that conveys strict adherence to these laws. If this shopper also has to avoid certain foods because of food allergies, the list of permissible grocery cart items is further reduced.
Kosher observance actually facilitates navigating the world of food allergies. Being familiar with looking at labels for a hechsher (reliable kosher symbol) is good training for the additional label scrutiny that food allergic diets require. Since kosher consumers are used to separating milk and meat they’re used to checking a label for a dairy designation. Coping with dairy avoidance is easier if one already has a list of familiar pareve (non-dairy) alternatives. Label reading for food allergies should be taken a step further by becoming familiar with various names of an allergen. If one is looking to avoid dairy they should also avoid: casein, lactose, and galactose (list is partial). Become familiar with the full spectrum of possible sources of the specific allergen.
Passover Kashrut observance offers additional advantages for the food allergic. During the holiday of Passover, leavened breads and cakes are forbidden.
While not all Kosher for Passover foods are gluten free, there are many that are. Passover products are also great for people avoiding soy and corn. Products marked Kintinyos free do not have soy or corn ingredients. Nuts and eggs (2 of the most common food allergens) are very common in Passover products. Consumption of Passover products requires heightened vigilance for egg and nut allergic individuals.
While keeping kosher may offer some advantages to food allergic individual it is still challenging. Having food allergies means constant vigilance. Family gatherings, Holiday celebrations, Synagogue functions,and school related food activities can all pose significant risks.
The principles for navigating these events are the same as for anyone dealing with food allergies.Ingredients and preparation methods(for cross-contamination with allergens) must always be verified before eating. Allergy medications should be readily accessible in case of accidental ingestion. With planning, preparation, and vigilance kosher food can be prepared deliciously and safely.