Updated: Feb 9
A food allergen is a challenge for someone with allergies as it means they have to avoid certain foods or try different cooking techniques to reduce the chances of a reaction. Sometimes it can be difficult to find out what food is making you ill. This could be because you aren’t really sure what all the words in a list of ingredients mean.
There are 14 main food allergens in the UK; also known as the Top 14. Outside of the UK, the top food allergens list differs. The US recognises eight food allergens officially - with sesame being the latest addition late 2020. Before delving into the list, here are some key facts about food allergies based on the your questions.
What is a food allergy?
A food allergy is the body's immune system confused reaction to specific foods. These foods are normally harmless but the immune system mistakes them for a harmful substance. There are approximately 4% of adults in the UK with food allergies and 6-8% of children according to the BSACI.
The difference between IgE and Non-IgE food allergies
An allergy is classed as IgE (immunoglobin) or Non-IgE mediated Food Hypersensitivity. What is the difference between them?
An IgE mediated allergy is an immediate reaction typically within two hours after contact or ingesting the allergen. Some reactions are not severe. In some instances a reaction can escalate into life threatening situations very quickly like anaphylaxis. Skin prick and blood tests measure the levels of food IgE antibodies to identify if a person has an IgE mediated allergy.
A non-IgE mediated allergy is a delayed reaction involving the immune system. This normally occurs up to 48 hours or between two and 72 hours.
Children with a non-IgE mediated allergy may undertake a Milk Ladder Challenge under the guidance of the relevant health professional . The challenge is gradual reintroduction of the food into the diet. You can find out more about Teal's interactive IMAP milk ladder challenge here. Always check with your healthcare professional first before starting the challenge. This is to ensure it is safe and appropriate to do so.
Intolerance versus sensitivity
Intolerances and sensitivities are often confused with allergies. An intolerance results in unpleasant symptoms; mainly gut related like diarrhoea. It does not involve the immune system and is not an immediate lie threatening situation. These foods can usually be tolerated in small quantities.
A sensitivity may cause exaggerated effects of a substance like caffeine causing palpitations and trembling.
So what are the top 14 main food allergens in the UK?
Milk as a food allergen
Milk is the most commonly recognised allergy in the UK - and affects 3-6% of infants and young children in the UK.
Lactose Intolerance, whilst very uncomfortable is an inability to digest lactose or milk sugar due to low lactase levels - the enzyme for digesting the sugars and can cause bloating and other irritating symptoms.
CMPA also known as Cows Milk Protein Allergy is often misdiagnosed or can be a longwinded route to diagnosis as early symptoms are common of other ailments.
Alternative dairy options include vegan and plant based soya, oat, rice, almond and coconut.
What foods should you avoid if you have a milk allergy?
Milk, milk powder and drinks
Butter & Margarine
Yogurt, Cream & Ice cream
Always read the ingredients label as it may not be obvious which products and ingredients include milk.
This is a short list for names to look out for on packaging: Casein • Caseinates • Hydrolysed casein • Skimmed milk • Skimmed milk powder • Milk solids• Non-fat milk • Whey • Whey syrup sweetener • Milk sugar solids • Lactose
Similar to milk, egg allergies are very common in children. With an egg allergy, the protein is mistaken as harmful by the immune system. Egg yolks and whites contain proteins that can cause allergic reactions, but the most common allergy is related to the whites.
Egg allergies are also linked to other conditions like atopic dermatitis or eczema; especially if there is a family history of the condition.
Should you receive a vaccination with an egg allergy?
The BSACI provided updated guidance in December 2020 for children with egg allergies and vaccinations which can be accessed here.
What foods contain egg?
Eggs can be found in the following foods, so read the label carefully.
Marshmallows • Mayonnaise • Meringue • Baked goods and breaded foods • Marzipan and Frostings • Processed meat, meatloaf and meatballs • Puddings and custards • Salad dressing and pasta • foam on alcoholic specialty coffees • Pretzels
What ingredients contain egg?
Labelling information that infer that egg was used in manufacturing processed food • Albumin • Globulin • Lecithin • Livetin • Lysozyme • Vitellin • words with ova or ovo such as ovalbumin or ovoglobulin
Here are alternative ingredients to serve as egg replacements in cooking and baking.
½ a large banana
13 tbs chia seeds + 3 tbs water for 5 minutes
3 tbs applesauce
Cereals containing gluten when it comes to food allergens
There is much talk around non Coeliac gluten sensitivity known as gluten intolerance and Coeliac disease,. This is much needed research and diagnosis testing required to demystify the allergies and intolerances around this.
Read more about Coeliac symptoms by the NHS. Cross contact is a serious concern as it can cause a reaction, therefore the environment that food is prepared in absolutely vital to protecting consumers.
Which ingredients on the label indicate gluten?
Wheat • Durum wheat • Semolina • Spelt • Kamut • Eincorn • Faro • Barley • Rye • Oat • Malt • Couscous
Where else can you find gluten present?
Always read the label and may contain section as gluten is commonly found in: • Bread • Baked goods • Baking mixes • Pasta • Crackers • Cereals • Condiments • Chocolates, • Sauces
Celery is a top 14 food allergen
Celery is another top 14 allergen although not common in childhood. It is known to cause reactions like Oral Allergy Syndrome, which is a cross reactivity with pollens. Both the celery root (celeriac) and stalks can cause reactions. Unlike other OAS affected foods, cooking does not always remove the allergen.
What labels indicate celery is present?
Celery seed • Celery leaf • Celery salt • Celeriac • Celery stalk
Which food products contain celery?
Vegetable juice and stock • Spice mixes • Soups • vegetable • Marmite • Curry • Bouillon • Processed meat products • Savoury snacks • Sausages • Prepared Salads
Fish allergies are in the top seven allergens list and most children will not outgrow it. Despite misconceptions, cooking or frying fish at high heat does not kill or eliminate the allergen and risk of cross contamination remains. Fish allergies are tested by pink fish and white fish.
Which food products should you avoid with a fish allergy?
Shellfish including prawns, crabs and lobsters are considered to be crustaceans.
What are the common dishes that contain crustaceans?
Paella, Chinese products, Thai Curry, Prepared sauces, Soups, Asian Salad, Fried rice, Fish paste, Fish Soup
What should you look out for on the label?
Amphipods • Barnacles • Crabs • Hermit Crabs • Crayfish • Isopods • Lobsters • Mantis Shrimp • Mussel Shrimp • Mysids • Sea Spiders • Shrimp • Prawns
Mollusc allergy is a subdivision of shellfish. Some people who are allergic to molluscs are able to tolerate crustaceans.
What types of food are molluscs?
Clams • Oysters • Mussels • Abalone • Cockles • Scallops • Octopus • Squid • Snails • Mussels • Abalone • Cockles • Scallop • Octopus • Squid • Snails • Limpets • whelks
Lupin the newest food Allergen in the UK
Lupin is related to legumes like peanuts, peas, lentils and beans. The flour and bran are widely used in Europe in bread, pasta, biscuits and other baked products, confectionery, and soya substitutes. It has been used in food manufacturing, to provide protein content, fibre and some textur in the UK since 1996. Many peanut allergic children may have low positive allergy tests to lupin as a result of cross-contact.
Lupine/Lupin is a flower, but it is also sometimes found in flour and is sometimes used in bread, pastries and pasta.
How is Lupin labelled on packaging?
Lupine • Lupin flour • Lupin seed • Lupin bean
Foods that are most likely to contain lupin
Pastry cases • Pies • Waffles • Pancakes • Crepes • Products containing crumbs • Pizza • Meat substitute • Deep-coated vegetables such as onion rings
Mustard as a food allergen
This includes Mustard in the form of powder, liquid and seeds. This ingredient is used in breads, curries, marinades, meat products, salad dressings, sauces and soups.
How is mustard labelled?
Mustard powder • Mustard seeds • Mustard flour • Mustard leaves • Mustard oil • Sprouted mustard seeds
Foods that mustard is common in
Sausages and processed meat products • Chutneys • Soups • Sauces • Piccalilli • Indian foods • Salad Dressings (vinaigrettes and crudités) • Spices • flavouring or seasoning • Barbecue Sauce • Curry Sauce • Cumberland Sauce • Ketchup • tomato sauce • Béarnaise Sauce • Mayonnaise • Pesto • Gravy • Marinades
Nut Allergy (peanut and tree nut)
When people think of allergies at school; the most common one is a nut allergy. This is why you will find many schools are a nut free zone. Nut allergies affect around 2% of children in the UK and is categorised by peanuts (which are a legume) and tree nuts. Examples of Tree Nuts include almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashew, pecan, brazil nuts, pecans, pistachio, macadamia, Queensland Nuts.
Facts about peanut allergies
Around 20% children with peanut allergy are known to outgrow it. There is much research and testing around desensitizing children to peanuts, but so much more to go. Peanut allergies are thought to transfer through oil surface contact, so always wipe down surfaces when in public areas like tray tables on planes.
Artificial flavouring, Baked goods, Candy, Chili, Chocolate, Crumb toppings, Egg rolls, Enchilada sauce, Ethnic foods: African, Asian, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, Fried foods, Flavouring, Graham cracker crust, Hydrolyzed plant protein, Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, Marzipan, Mole sauce, Natural flavouring, Nougat
How is peanut labelled as an allergen?
Ground Nuts • Beer nuts • Monkey nuts • Nut meat • Arachis oil • Kernels • Peanut protein • Arachic oil • Arachis • Arachis hypogaea • Artificial nuts • Beer nuts • Boiled peanuts • Cold pressed • Extruded or expelled peanut oil • Crushed nuts • Crushed peanuts • Earth nuts • Goober peas • Ground nuts • Ground peanuts • Hydrolyzed peanut protein • Mandelonas • Mixed nuts • Nut pieces • Nutmeat • Peanut butter • Peanut butter chips • Peanut butter morsels • Peanut flour • Peanut paste • Peanut sauce • Peanut syrup • Virginia peanuts
Natasha's Law will be statutory legislation in England from October 2021 to ensure that all PPDS ingredients are clearly labelled. These are (pre-prepared foods for direct sale. This follows tireless campaigning after the tragic death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse; who died of anaphylaxis after eating a Pret baguette containing sesame.
This is how sesame is labelled as a food allergen
Sesame seeds • Sesame oil • Benne • Benne seed • Gingelly • Gingelly oil
Foods likely to contain sesame
Bread • Soup • Crackers • Tahini butter • Dressings • Marinades • Toasts • Dips • Hummus • Sauces • Chutney
Soya Beans are also regarded as legumes. It is used as an ingredient in many food products; commonly as a dairy alternative or meat substitute.
What food products contain soya?
Soya can be found in • bakery goods • sweets • drinks • breakfast cereals • ice cream • margarine • pasta • processed meats.
Soya flour is used to increase the shelf life of many products and to improve the colour of pastry crusts.
How is Soya allergen labelled as an ingredient?
Soy flour • Soya Milk • Soya nuts • Bean curd • Edamame • Hydrolyzed soy protein • Kinnoko flour • Kyodofu • Miso • Natto • Okara • Shoyu sauce • Soy albumin • Soy concentrate • Soy fibre • Soy formula • Soy grits • Soy milk • Soy miso • Soy nuts • Soy nut butter • Soy protein • Soy protein concentrate • Soy protein isolate • Soy sauce • Soy sprouts • Soya • Soya flour • Soybeans • Soybean granules • Soybean curd • Soybean flour • Soy lecithin • Soybean paste • Supro • Tamari • Tempeh • Teriyaki sauce • Textured soy flour (TSF) • Textured soy protein (TSP) • Textured vegetable protein (TVP) • Tofu • Yakidofu • Yuba (bean curd) • Soy oil • Soybean • Textured vegetable protein •Bean curd • Vegetable starch • Vegetable gum
The types of food that you are likely to find soya in
Soya is found in: Soy milk, Soy oil, Bean sprouts, Canned tuna, Surimi, Artificial flavouring, Asian foods (e.g. Japanese, Chinese, Thai, etc.), Baked goods, Hydrolyzed plant protein, Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), Soy sauce, Tamari sauce, Teryaki sauce, Miso, Natural flavouring, Vegetable broth, Vegetable gum, Vegetable starch
Sulphur Dioxide and Sulphites as a food allergen
This is considered an allergen if they are at a concentration of more than ten parts per million.
This is ingredient is commonly found in dried fruits, some meat products, soft drinks, vegetables, wine and beer. Asthmatics have a higher risk of developing an allergy to sulphites.
Where are you most likely to find sulphites?
Pickled foods and vinegar, Dried fruit eg dried apricots, prunes, raisins etc, Maraschino cherries, Tinned coconut milk, Beer, wine and cider, Vegetable juices, Some soft drinks, Grape juice, Bottled lemon juice and lime juice, Condiments (bottled sauces etc.), Guacamole, Dehydrated, pre-cut or peeled potatoes, Fresh or frozen prawns, Some processed meat products
How are sulphites labelled?
Sulphur • Sulphur Dioxide • Sulphite • Sulphites • Potassium bisulphite • Metabisulphite • Sodium bisulphite • Dithionite • Metabisulphite • Sulphiting agents • Sulphurous acid • E220 Sulphur dioxide • E221 Sodium sulphite • E222 Sodium hydrogen sulphite • E223 Sodium metabisulphite • E224 Potassium metabisulphite • E226 Calcium sulphite • E227 Calcium hydrogen sulphite • E228 Potassium hydrogen sulphite • E150b Caustic sulphite caramel • E150d Sulphite ammonia caramel
FSA guidelines state pre-packed food must have an ingredients list. Allergens should be emphasised every time in the ingredients list. They can be emphasised in bold, contrasting colours or by underlining them.
Ingredients: Water, Carrots, Onions, Red Lentils (4.5%) Potatoes, Cauliflower, Leeks, Peas, Cornflour, Wheat flour, Salt, Cream, Yeast Extract, Concentrated Tomato Paste, Garlic, Whey (Milk), Sugar, Celery Seed, Sunflower Oil, Herbs and Spice, White Pepper, Parsley
Allergy Recall alerts happen when allergens are detected through batch testing or by consumers themselves. This means product recalls need to happen as a matter of priority and urgency as they are in circulation. This is when a product needs to be withdrawn from the shelves immediately and consumers need to return it due to undeclared, missing or incorrect allergy related ingredients labelling.💡Did you know the Teal App provides real-time FSA recall alerts to its members?✍️✍️
Have you heard about Teal; the allergy app designed to help you manage your allergies. Simply download the app for free and create a membership. You will be able to track allergic reactions, create multiple profiles, progress ladder challenges and embrace the community for support. The premium membership provides savings on safe free from products and great resources like You, Me and Food Allergies.
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