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Foods to Avoid on a Fish-Free Diet

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Updated January 24, 2011

sushi with chopsticks

People with fish allergies should avoid Japanese restaurants.

Steve Wisbauer/Getty Images

Fish allergy is one of the eight most common allergies, and is covered under the the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA), which requires manufacturers to clearly list fish ingredients on product labels.

If you see the following statements on a label, the food may be cross-contaminated with fish. These warnings are generally voluntary, so some manufacturers may not include this information, even if there is fish present in their facility.

  • "may contain fish"
  • "produced on shared equipment with fish"
  • "produced in a facility that also processes fish"

Types of Fish

Fish have fins, as opposed to shellfish (mollusks and crustaceans), which do not. Some people may be allergic to both fish and shellfish, others may not.

It is also possible to be allergic to some species of fish but not to other species. However, since fish are often processed in the same facility, there is a high risk of cross-contamination. Your allergist can help you determine what types of seafood are safe for you to eat, if any.

Some of the types of fish that are commonly sold for food are:

  • Anchovies
  • Bass
  • Catfish
  • Cod
  • Flounder
  • Grouper
  • Haddock
  • Hake
  • Herring
  • Mahi mahi
  • Monkfish
  • Orange roughy
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Pollock
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Scrod
  • Sole
  • Snapper
  • Smelt
  • Swordfish
  • Tilapia
  • Trout
  • Tuna
  • Whitefish

Fish Ingredients

These foods commonly are made from fish, or may contain fish ingredients.

  • Asian fish sauces such as Nam pla
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Bonito broth (Japanese broth made from dried fish flakes)
  • Bouillabaisse (fish stew)
  • Caesar salad dressing (contains anchovies)
  • Caviar (fish eggs)
  • Ceviche (fish or shellfish in an acidic citrus marinade)
  • Cioppino (fish stew)
  • Fumet (fish stock)
  • Gelatin (kosher gelatin is made from fish bones)
  • Imitation fish or shellfish
  • Omega-3 supplements or foods that advertise Omega-3
  • Pissaladière (French onion tart)
  • Steak sauce
  • Sushi
  • Surimi (imitation crab made from fish)
  • Worcestershire sauce

Restaurants to Avoid

Fish is one of the most common causes of allergic reactions in restaurants. Some people may have reactions to airborne particles of fish from cooking, others may encounter fish stock in soups or dressings. You should avoid eating in the following types of restaurants, because of their widespread use of fish ingredients and the danger of cross-contamination:

  • Chinese
  • Indonesian
  • Thai
  • Vietnamese
  • Japanese
  • Seafood

Also avoid eating anything deep-fried in a restaurant that serves fish, unless the fish is fried in a separate fryer.

Non-Food Sources of Fish

  • Fish food
  • Pet food and treats
  • Fertilizer
  • Carrageen is a thickener derived from seaweed.
  • GMO corn or other GMO foods with fish genes have been allergy tested and found to be safe for people with fish allergies.
  • Iodine in food or medical settings is safe. Iodine allergy is not related to fish or shellfish allergies.
  • Vegetarian or Vegan Omega-3 supplements are made from seaweed or flax seed oil.
  • Wine that has been processed with fish ingredients has been tested and found to be safe for people with fish allergies.

Foods that should be safe for people with fish allergies:

  • Carrageen is a thickener derived from seaweed.
  • GMO corn or other GMO foods with fish genes have been allergy tested and found to be safe for people with fish allergies.
  • Iodine in food or medical settings is safe. Iodine allergy is not related to fish or shellfish allergies.
  • Vegetarian or Vegan Omega-3 supplements are made from seaweed or flax seed oil.
  • Wine that has been processed with fish ingredients has been tested and found to be safe for people with fish allergies.

Sources:

Food Allergy Initiative. http://www.faiusa.org/?page=fish. Accessed 10/22/2010

Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. Fish Allergy. http://www.foodallergy.org/page/fish-allergy Accessed 10/21/2010.

Kirschner S, Belloni B, Kugler C, Ring J, Brockow K. Allergenicity of wine containing processing aids: a double-blind, placebo-controlled food challenge. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 2009;19(3):210-7.

Lehrer, S.B., Bannon, G. A Risks of allergic reactions to biotech proteins in foods: perception and reality. European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. vol. 60, no.5, May 2005

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Food Allergies
  4. Common Food Allergies
  5. Seafood Allergies
  6. Fish-Free Diet - Ingredients and Foods to Avoid on a Fish-Free Diet

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