What does Hypoallergenic Mean?

Posted 4.20.10 | Sarah O'Brien

Most people believe that a product labeled as hypoallergenic will not cause an allergic reaction, but is this really true?

The definition of hypoallergenic is that a product is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction or will cause fewer allergic reactions. Unfortunately, there are few FDA standards that regulate the use of the term, so it’s hard to determine which products are truly hypoallergenic.

With infant formula, things can get confusing because there are several different types that claim to be hypoallergenic. One example is hydrolysate formulas. Although they claim to be hypoallergenic, the protein in these formulas is only partially broken down and allergic reactions can still happen.

To distinguish them from hydrolysates, amino acid-based formulas like Neocate are sometimes referred to as “super” hypoallergenic. This is because they are made up of individual non-allergenic amino acids.

As the parent of a child with food allergies, it is important to ask yourself, “What makes this product hypoallergenic?” before giving it to your child. One thing that the FDA does require is a list of ingredients on the product label. So be sure to read that ingredient list carefully and look out for potential allergens.

One other thing that you may want to consider when choosing a medical food (such as specialized infant formula) is how much it has been tested. With medical foods a manufacturer is only required to have 29 consecutive patients tolerate the formula in a trial and then they can claim it is hypoallergenic. And if the trial fails the first time, they can repeat it again until they reach 29!

Have any other questions about hypoallergenic products? Ask away!

- Sarah

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Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.