The Restaurant syndromes can be caused by five major factors: food allergens, sulfites, monosodium glutamate (MSG), tartrazine, and scombroidosis (and other seafood poisoning.) A history of atopy and ingestion of known food allergens such as peanuts, egg, fish, and walnuts, together with positive results of skin tests or RAST to these foods, will favor a diagnosis of food allergy. Allergic reactions to peanuts have produced fatalities in minutes through an IgE mediated reaction. An extremely rapid onset (minutes) of symptoms consisting of flushing, bronchospasm and hypotension is consistent with a sulfite reaction. Burning, pressure, and tightness or numbness in the face, neck; and upper chest following ingestion of Chinese food favors a diagnosis of adverse reaction to MSG. Also, development of late onset bronchospasm (up to 14 hours) may be related to MSG reactions. Bronchospasm and urticaria in a patient with a history of aspirin intolerance suggests tartrazine sensitivity. If everyone ingesting a fish meal develops flushing, urticaria, pruritus, gastrointestinal complaints, or bronchospasm, this implies scombroidosis, ciguatera, or other seafood poisoning. Finally, severe headache or hypertension can result from ingestion of naturally occurring amines, such as tyramine (cheese, red wine) and phenylethylamine (chocolate). A double-blind oral challenge test may be the only way of confirming the diagnosis for most of the etiological factors of the Restaurant syndromes. The treatment of choice for acute reactions is epinephrine followed by antihistamine. Proper labeling and avoidance of these ingredients in sensitive individuals are the best preventive measures.
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