I have always been sensitive to perfumes and cleaning products. Until I was 27, the worst allergy that I had suffered was to hair dye which resulted in an all over body rash and swollen lymph glands.

Then about two years ago I had an allergic reaction to some potato chips. This reaction caused my tongue to swell and slight breathing difficulties. However the swelling went down and my breathing went back to normal with antihistamines. Originally I suspected that flavour enhancers were responsible for my reactions. However I have since eaten food with these additives and have not had any reactions. I began avoiding dairy products believing that I had had an allergic reaction to some milk powder in flavouring on the chips. Following this incident, maybe a few weeks later, I went out to lunch with a work colleague to a fast food restaurant and ordered the chilli. As I was still under the impression it was dairy at this point, I felt it was a safe choice.However about 15 minutes after I had finished eating, I started to have difficulty breathing. This was a feeling of a tightening throat and heavy chest. I took antihistamines and could tell that it was not working. So I was driven to a doctor straight away. The doctor almost immediately gave me adrenaline. With this my breathing returned to normal and I was taken to hospital for observation overnight.

As a result of this reaction I was sent to see an immunologist. After discussing my reactions and having skin prick tests done for "standard" allergens (which were all negative), I was instructed to keep a food diary and cross reference the food ingredients that were in my "bad' foods to see if a process of elimination could determine the allergen that had given me my reactions. My immunologist contacted the fast food restaurant to obtain the recipe for me, so that I could begin to eliminate ingredients that had not caused my reaction.

The result was two food additives: 319 (in the oil the potato chips were cooked in) and 385 a preservative used in the beans of the chilli. My immunologist had never come across anyone with this type of reaction to 319 or 385, but agreed with my food diary analysis. Since I discovered this I read the label of everything that I eat. Unfortunately I have had one more serious reaction to food additive 319, due to a misunderstanding between myself and a relative who used oil with additive 319 to cook otherwise additive-free fresh meat. So I now avoid foods (mainly oils and foods cooked in oils) with these additives and have not had a reaction since. My sensitivity to perfumes and cleaning products has become worse since the development of my allergy. My sensitivity to perfumes and cleaning products has become worse since the development of my allergy and I was warned that since my allergy developed as an adult that there may be other additives that I can become sensitive/allergic too. – Caroline, by email (Presumably the original allergy to a hair dye was to 319 TBHQ, see LaCoz reference in 320 Synthetic Antioxidants Factsheet)