Growing up, it seemed like the number one mealtime concern for parents was pleasing picky eaters. However, with increases in food recalls and more children prone to food allergies, food safety and quality has become a much larger issue than ever before. Nevertheless, there are several ways that parents can protect their kids from potentially harmful foods and allergy symptoms.

Is Your Food Safe to Consume?

There have been several reports of major food contaminations and recalls in the country in recent years. Yet the peanut butter recall of early 2009 is perhaps the most memorable. For weeks there were newspaper stories and TV reports about incidences of contamination in local communities.

Parents might be surprised to know that there are more than 100 food recalls each year. What is even more astounding is that, according to Rutgers University Food Policy Institute, only about 60 percent of Americans surveyed last year have looked for foods pulled from grocery store shelves in their homes.

Being aware of product changes and alterations is important for keeping your family protected from the dangers of contamination. Companies are doing their part to help. For example, due to a recent E. coli contaminated batch of Nestlé’s Toll House cookie dough, the company redesigned product packaging to specify the new batch versus the old.

Here are a few easy steps that you can take for keeping your kids safe.

  • Log onto on a regular basis to check for recent food recalls. If you’re active on Twitter, follow for the latest updates.
  • Dispose of contaminated food properly and make sure to wash your hands.
  • If your child begins to feel ill from suspect foods, contact your physician right away.

Do You Suspect That Your Child May Have Hidden Food Allergies?

This three-step method may help.

  1. Keep a food record over a four-day period when your child is at home all day. Take note of any associated symptoms.
  2. Try an elimination diet with foods to which you most suspect your child may be allergic. Avoid foods that might contain more than one allergen.
  3. Reintroduce one new food each week into your child’s diet to see if the symptoms reappear.

In most cases, a careful elimination diet will uncover your child’s food allergy. Skin or blood testing by a physician or allergist may be necessary to uncover some unknown allergies.

Being a “pure parent” by making your child’s diet as fresh and additive-free as possible, along with encouraging a variety of foods, may help prevent food allergies. Some studies suggest that allergies can be prevented prenatally when mothers avoid binge eating common allergens during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Tracking Down Food Allergies

Approximately 3 to 7 percent of children and adults are affected by food allergies. Symptoms vary in severity, and can range from hives and swelling to difficulty breathing.

More than 90 percent of food allergies are caused by seven foods, including dairy, soy, shellfish, wheat, tree nuts, peanuts and egg whites. Allergic reactions are often overdose-related, and may take a few minutes, hours or days to occur.

The good news is that most children outgrow food allergies by age 3. However, though kids tend to become less sensitive to milk and soy products over time, nuts and shellfish allergies tend to persist.

Because nearly three-quarters of immunity is based in the digestive tract, many physicians recommend probiotics for an overall health boost. While “friendly” bacteria alone are not used as a treatment for food allergies, science has shown that the Lactobacillus GG (LGG) strain has been effective in promoting anti-allergenic processes, reducing inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract and decreasing certain symptoms triggered by food allergies, such as eczema. Children with food sensitivities can now take Culturelle for Kids, an allergen-free probiotic powder containing LGG. Culturelle for Kids is completely free of dairy and gluten. Another supplement called Juice Plus contains an extract of 17 fruits and vegetables and has been shown by many scientific studies to boost the immune system.

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