What are Allergens?

The universal association with the word allergen is a substance that causes an allergy, or in other words causes the body to have an adverse reaction. The top 8 food allergens in the US:

  1. Eggs
  2. Milk
  3. Peanuts
  4. Soybeans
  5. Wheat
  6. Tree nuts
  7. Fish
  8. Shellfish.


The function of allergen labeling is vital to the millions of people have sensitivities to certain foods or compounds in food; the range of sensitivity adds an element of caution during consumption. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes that most allergies have mild reactions, but for the few who hold greater sensitivities consciousness of allergens can be a more wary task because the allergen at hand could cause harm at the opposite end of the spectrum. For instance, greater sensitivities could result in severe bodily reactions, even ending in death. No known cure exists for those suffering with allergies, only withholding from consumption of the allergen can alleviate negative health responses. In addition to the strict avoidance, identification of allergen sensitivity early on is also vital to physical health and well-being. In baking, those affected by allergens must be extremely cautious because baked items can contain 6 out of the 8 major food allergens, deemed so by the FDA, including wheat, egg, milk, tree nuts, peanuts, and soybean. Such a wide range of allergens that are a few of the key ingredients included in baked goods poses a great problem for consumers with sensitivities. All products such as breads, muffins, pastries, cookies, etc. that contain any allergen must state so in clear view on packaging in order to inform the consumer of any possible danger in consumption.


Egg: Whole eggs, separated egg yolks or separated egg whites are used in a broad range of baked goods including breads, muffins, cakes, cookies, pastries, etc. Eggs in any form serve the function of emulsifying, adding texture, adding color as well as function for coagulation purposes. Carotenoids contained in eggs enhance color by helping provide the golden brown color in crusts of baked good. Eggs coagulate by binding ingredients together and preventing crumbling providing a building block for stable structure.

Milk: Whole milk, skim milk, low-fat milk, buttermilk, butter, cream are forms of milk products used in baking. Milk is included many baked products such as in cakes, cookies, sweet doughs, pancakes, muffins, crackers, and some breads. The type of milk depends on the desire of the baker, and the requirements of the recipe. Differences in the fat content of the varieties of milk affect the tenderizing and moisture properties of the milk, which are two of the major functions milk provides in baked items. Fish: Including salmon, halibut, tilapia catfish, trout, cod, etc. Fish is not utilized for purposes in baking.

Peanuts: In baking peanuts serve the purpose identical to tree nuts in addition to providing an ingredient source in peanut butter or peanut oil, used for flavor as well as adding a creaming texture to baked items. Fried goods can be prepared using peanut oil.

Soybean or Soy: In baking, soy can be present in the form of soy milk an alternative to using other dairy products. Breads, crackers, muffins or any other baked item- containing soy most often than not occurs in items revolving around the health target market along with whole-wheat varieties.

Wheat: In baking, wheat is primarily sourced from whole-wheat flour used in wholesome breads, muffins, tortillas, crackers, and bagels. The allergy from wheat consumption primarily results from gluten sensitivity. Gluten is the major protein contained in wheat, composed of glutenin and gliadin. Glutenin provides the elastic properties of dough while gliadin counteracts with extensible properties. Gliadin is the primary protein element in gluten that causes gluten sensitivity. Those affected by such an allergen must consume alternative baked items deemed ʻGluten Freeʼ.

Tree nuts: Almonds, walnuts, pecans are typical tree nuts used for baking purposes. Artisan or specialty breads contain such tree nuts for flavor and texture, as well as to add a visual appeal. Muffins, crackers, cookies, and sometimes cakes can contain tree nuts to add flavor as well as texture. Tree nuts can also be utilized in a butter or oil form.

Shellfish: Shellfish are considered any crustacean, such as crab, shrimp, oysters or clams. Shellfish are not used for baking purposes.

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