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Food Allergies, Coeliac Disease and Food Intolerance


What are food allergies?
Food allergies happen when the immune system (the body’s defence against infection) mistakenly treats proteins found in food as a threat. As a result, a number of chemicals are released. It is these chemicals that can trigger anaphylaxis, which can be deadly.

The EU legislation covering allergens labeling means it is now a criminal offence* to ignore the rules, and a hefty fine if a customer suffers a reaction to incorrectly labelled food. (*See page 34 of Regulation No. 1169/2011)

Almost any food can cause an allergic reaction, but there are certain foods that are responsible for most food allergies. In children, the foods that most commonly cause an allergic reaction come from milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.

Among adults they are peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish such as crab, lobster and prawns.

Read more about the causes and risk factors for food allergies. The Anaphylaxis Campaign website is full of important information.

The full allergens list:

Here’s a handy shopfront with printable signs.

Coeliac disease
Coeliac disease ((pronounced see-liac and spelled celiac in other countries) is a lifelong autoimmune disease caused by intolerance to gluten. It is not the same as an allergy or food intolerance. Food that contains gluten must be labeled. Read up about its effects on sufferers.

What is food intolerance?
Food intolerance is not the same as a food allergy. People with food intolerance may have symptoms such as diarrhoea, bloating and stomach cramps.

This may be caused by difficulties digesting certain substances, such as lactose. However, no allergic reaction takes place. Important differences between a food allergy and a food intolerance include:

  • The symptoms of a food intolerance usually occur several hours after eating the food.
  • You need to eat a larger amount of food to trigger an intolerance than an allergy.
  • A food intolerance is never life-threatening, unlike an allergy.

For more on allergies and food intolerance. For free training go to the FSA’s Food allergy webpage.