Dealing with Food Allergies

Moving to Japan opens up a whole new world of flavors and tastes can be both unfamiliar and wonderfully eye opening. For most people,  getting used to eating in Japan is just that—getting used to the food itself, but for those with allergies or other special food considerations Japan can present a host of challenges.

Even though all packaged food in Japan is labelled, the labels themselves might be very hard to understand if you don’t understand Japanese or read kanji, and while this might mean that you get a few surprises here and there with the ingredients in snack foods or frozen dinners it can be a nightmare to figure out allergies.

Food allergy information in Japan lists seven ingredients which are commonly used in food: eggs, milk, wheat, buckwheat, peanuts, shrimp and crab. Products containing these ingredients are required to be labeled.

Why these seven? According to the allergy handbook produced by the Japan Consumer Affairs Agency these seven allergens are the ones most likely to produce a severe reaction (think anaphylactic shock). In Japan eggs, milk, and wheat make up 70% of food allergies.

Below is a quick view of the seven most common allergens in Japan and their Japanese kanji:

小麦

そば

落花生

えび

かに

Milk / Dairy

Egg

Wheat

Buckwheat

Peanuts / Tree Nuts

Shrimp

Crab

For more in depth information on allergy information / labeling in Japan see the following posts:

If you are uncomfortable with your language ability yet still want to be able to communicate important information regarding food or other medical allergies look into getting cards made by ‘Select Wisely‘.  They are a company that makes travel translation cards for those with food allergies, gluten free celiac disease, diabetes,  latex allergy, lactose intolerance, and asthma.

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