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What is shellfish?

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watch for hidden shellfish

Shellfish is a common entrée protein for meals. Shellfish includes crustaceans and mollusks, although mollusks alone are not considered a major allergen and may not be labelled on packaging. Shellfish allergies are typically anaphylactic, with a lifelong duration. No one really outgrows them.

Those with a shellfish allergy react to the protein in shellfish called “tropomyosin”. Those allergic should have an Epi-Pen on hand at all times for emergency first aid before proceeding to Emergency for further treatment.

As a major allergen, shellfish will be clearly marked on the labels of foods produced for the US market, usually in the form “contains shellfish”. However, it is still important to learn what to look for to avoid shellfish in your diet.

Read the label for shellfish

Shellfish can be found in barnacles, crab, crawfish (crawdad or crayfish), krill, lobster (langouste, lobster scampi, lobster tomalley), prawns, shrimps (shrimp scampi), abalone, clams (cherrystone clams, geoduck clams, littleneck clams, quahog clams), cockles, conch, cuttlefish, limpets (opihi), mussels, octopus, oysters, oyster sauce, periwinkles, scallops, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, snails (escargot), squid (calamari), whelks, bouillabaisse (fish soup), cuttlefish ink, squid ink, glucosamine, fish stock, seafood flavouring (in the form "crab extract", "clam extract", etc), surimi, sushi, deep fried foods.

Note: Please be aware that airbourne shellfish protein can trigger a reaction. Avoid both seafood restaurants and any location in which shellfish is cooking. Seafood restaurants should also be avoided because of the high potential for cross-contamination from both fish and shellfish even if you order a non-shellfish item.

Shellfish free substitutions

Shellfish is a fairly easy allergen to substitute provided that you avoid seafood restaurants. Simply choose another non-seafood protein in its place if it's a main course, and of course read labels carefully to avoid hidden shellfish in condiments.

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