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The 14 Common Allergens

Food allergies occur when you consume allergen foods that your immune systems mistakes for harmful substances. Your body will then release chemicals such as histamines which cause inflammation and thus symptoms of allergy. It doesn’t matter the amount of food you consume with the allergen. You’ll still experience allergy symptoms within a few minutes to a few hours of consumption.

Since there are many common allergens in foods we consume daily, the way allergens are labelled on pre-packed foods has changed. The Food Information Regulation, born in December 2014, also introduced a regulation that food businesses must provide information about allergenic ingredients in any foods they sell {1}. In the UK, there is a list of 14 allergens (which we list in this article) that sellers must list if used in any of their products {2}.

There are mainly 14 common allergens in the UK. The 14 main allergens include:

Gluten and wheat

A wheat allergy occurs when one’s immune system responds to the proteins in wheat. Most children suffer from wheat allergy but tend to outgrow it once they reach ten years of age. On the other hand, gluten allergy or celiac disease occurs when one has an abnormal immune reaction to gluten present in many grains, including wheat. So, when suffering from a gluten allergy or celiac disease, you’ll also need to avoid grains like wheat, rye, barley, and oats. These are often found in flour, baking powder, batter, breadcrumbs, cakes, couscous, meat products, pasta, pastry, sauces, soups, and fried food.

What to look for in food labels

Wheat, Kamut, Einkorn, Faro, Durum wheat, Semolina, Spelt, Barley, Rye, Oat, Malt, and Couscous

Common foods with gluten

Bread, Baked goods, Baking mixes, Condiments, Chocolates, Sauces, Pasta, Crackers, Cereals

Sulphites/Sulphur Dioxide

Mostly you’ll find sulphites are mostly added to beverages and canned foods to make them last longer. However, some foods like aged cheese and grapes naturally contain sulphates. People with asthma are likely to develop this allergy.

What to look for in food labels

Sulphur, E150b Caustic sulphite caramel, E150d Sulphite ammonia caramel

 Sulphur Dioxide, Sulphite, Sulphites, Dithionite, Metabisulphite, Sulphiting agents, Potassium bisulphite, Metabisulphite, Sodium bisulphite, E220 Sulphur dioxide, E224 Potassium metabisulphite, E221 Sodium sulphite, E222 Sodium hydrogen sulphite, Sulphurous acid, E223 Sodium metabisulphite, E226 Calcium sulphite, E228 Potassium hydrogen sulphite

Common foods with sulphites or sulphur oxide

Pickled foods and vinegar, Beer, wine and cider, Dried fruit eg dried apricots, prunes, raisins etc., Maraschino cherries, Tinned coconut milk, Guacamole, Dehydrated, pre-cut or peeled potatoes, Vegetable juices, Bottled lemon juice and lime juice, Some soft drinks, Grape juice, Condiments (bottled sauces etc.), Fresh or frozen prawns, Some processed meat products

Celery

An allergy to celery includes celery leaves, stalks, seeds and the root called celeriac. Celery is present celery in celery salt, salads, meat products, soups and stock cubes.

What to look for in food labels

Celery seed, Celery leaf, Celery salt, Celeriac or Celeriac, Celery stalk

Common foods with celery

Vegetable juice, marmite, savoury snacks, sausages, curry, spice mixes, soups, bouillon, processed meat products, and prepared salads

Crustaceans

Crustaceans mostly have hard shells and walk around with jointed legs. These include Crabs, lobster, prawns and scampi. The most common one among them is shrimp paste used in Thai and Southeast Asian cooking.

What to look for in food labels

Amphipods, barnacles, crabs, mussel shrimp, mysids, hermit crabs, crayfish, isopods, lobsters, mantis shrimp, sea spiders, shrimp, and prawns

Common foods with crustaceans

Paella, Chinese products, Soups, Asian Salad, Thai Curry, Prepared sauces, Fried rice, Fish paste, Fish Soup

Egg

Egge allergies are pretty common, especially in children. It is the second most common allergy in children {1}.

What to look for in food labels

Albumin, livetin, lysozyme, mayonnaise, meringue, meringue powder, apovitellin, egg yolk, egg wash, eggnog, cholesterol-free dried egg solids, dried egg, egg substitute, egg, egg white, fat substitutes, globulin, ovalbumin, powdered eggs, silici albuminate, ovoglobulin, ovomucin, ovomucoid, ovotransferrin, ovovitelia, ovovitellin, simplesse, surimi, trailblazer, vitellin, and whole egg

Common foods with eggs

Meringue, Marshmallow, Artificial flavouring, Egg glazed pastry, Some ice cream, Baked goods, Lecithin, Natural flavourings, Nougat, Pasta, Salad dressing, Mayonnaise, Marzipan, Tartare Sauce, Hollandaise, Cakes, Some custard

Fish

Fish allergies are pretty common, affecting around 7% of the population. You’ll find that some individuals develop a fish allergy in adulthood too. Fish allergies result from finned fish like tuna, salmon, catfish, and cod. You can be allergic to finned fish and not shellfish since these two have varying proteins that result in allergens.

What to look for in food labels

Anchovies, perch, scrod, swordfish, sole, pike, pollock, bass, catfish, snapper, tilapia, trout, cod, flounder, grouper, haddock, hake, halibut, herring, Mahi Mahi, salmon, and tuna

Common foods with fish

Barbecue sauce, caesar salad and caesar dressing, soups, barbecue sauce, caponata, pizza, Worcestershire sauce, bouillabaisse, meatloaf, imitation or artificial fish or shellfish), a Sicilian eggplant relish, num pla, dips, gelatine, and relishes.

Lupin

Even though lupin is a flower, it’s also found in flour. You can use lupin flour and seeds in some bread, pastries, and pasta.

What to look for in food labels

Lupine, Lupin flour, Lupin seed, and Lupin bean

Common foods with lupin

Pies, products containing crumbs, pizzas, waffles, pastry cases, pancakes, crepes, vegetarian meat substitutes, and deep-coated vegetables such as onion rings

Milk

Milk allergy is mostly the first seen in children, and while some outgrow this allergy, others don’t. It is also possible to develop milk allergy in adulthood. Proteins like whey and casein are most responsible for an allergic reaction in those suffering from milk allergies.

What to look for in food labels

Butter, cheese, cream, milk powders, yoghurt, margarine, cream, and ice cream.

Common foods with milk

Yoghurt, Natural flavouring, Milk, Milk powder, Buttermilk, Butter, Ghee, Flavouring, Caramel flavouring, High protein flour, Chocolate, Instant Mash, Rice cheese, Soy cheese, Cream, Lactic acid starter culture, Ice Cream, Cheese, Custard, and Margarine

Mustard

Mustard seeds contain a primary allergen known as “Sin a 1.” This allergen is still present even when in cooked food. However, brown mustard has a different allergen called “Bra j 1.” Most people allergic to mustard are also allergic to rapeseed.

What to look for in food labels

Mustard seeds, Mustard powder, Mustard flour, Mustard leaves, Mustard oil, Sprouted mustard seeds

Common foods with mustard

Sausages and processed meat products, Cumberland Sauce, Ketchup, tomato sauce, Spices, flavouring or seasoning, Chutneys, Soups, Sauces, Chutney, Piccalilli, Salad dressing, Indian foods, Vegetables with vinegar, Dehydrated soups, Salad Dressings (vinaigrettes and cruditées), Barbecue Sauce, Curry Sauce, Béarnaise Sauce, Mayonnaise, Pesto, Gravies, Marinades, Chutneys pickles and other pickled products

Mollusc

Molluscs include land snails, mussels, squid, and whelks but can also be found in oyster sauce, a common ingredient in fish stews.

What to look for in food labels

Oysters, Snails, Clams and cockles, Abalone, Squid, Scallops, Mussels, Mussels, Octopus, Oysters

Common foods with mollusc

Ethnic Food, Mussel dishes, Soups, Sauces, Scallops, Calamari

Tree Nut

Most people suffering from peanut allergies often have more tree nut allergies. Tree nuts grow on trees, unlike peanuts which flourish underground. Examples include cashew nuts, almonds and hazelnuts.

What to look for in food labels

Almond, Walnuts, Cashews, Hazelnuts, Pecan Nuts, Brazil Nuts, Pistachio Nuts, Macadamia or Queensland Nuts.

Common foods with tree nut

Nut butter, chocolates, salad dressings, bbq sauce, chocolate spread, artificial flavouring, baked goods, mortadella, natural flavouring, nougat, pesto, pesto, crackers, and desserts.

Peanuts

Peanut allergies affect a vast population of people worldwide. Peanuts are also called groundnuts because they’re legumes that grow underground, which is why they’re also known as groundnuts. Often, peanuts are the most common cause of anaphylaxis.

What to look for in food labels

Extruded or expelled peanut oil, mixed nuts, nut pieces, crushed nuts, ground nuts, monkey nuts, beer nuts, nut meat, Arachis oil, kernels, peanut protein, peanut butter chips, peanut butter morsels, arachic oil, cold pressed, crushed peanuts, Arachis, Arachis hypogaea, artificial nuts, beer nuts, boiled peanuts, earth nuts, goober peas, ground nuts, hydrolyzed peanut protein, ground peanuts, mandelonas, nutmeat, peanut butter, peanut flour, peanut paste, peanut sauce, peanut syrup, and Virginia peanuts.

Common foods with peanuts

Graham cracker crust, hydrolyzed plant protein, artificial flavouring, baked goods, candy, chilli, chocolate, crumb toppings, egg rolls, enchilada sauce, ethnic foods: African, Thai, Vietnamese, Asian, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Mexican, fried foods, flavouring, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, natural flavouring, marzipan, mole sauce, nougat.

Sesame

You’ll find sesame seeds in baked foods or used to make certain dips. Sesame is often sprinkled on buns used to make hamburgers and in other foods like breadsticks, houmous, sesame oil and tahini.

What to look for on food label

Sesame seeds, Sesame oil, Gingelly, Gingelly oil, Benne, Benne seed

Common foods with sesame

Bread, tahini butter, soups, marinades, chutney, crackers, dressings, toasts, dips, hummus, sauces,

Soya

Soya is commonly consumed around the world. It contains lots of protein and is thus good, especially for vegans, plant-based and vegetarians.

What to look for on food labels

bean curd, edamame beans, miso pates, textured soya protein, soya flour, tofu

Common foods containing soya

Soy milk, Soy oil, Bean sprouts, Canned tuna, Surimi, Natural flavouring, Artificial flavouring, Hydrolyzed plant protein, Asian foods (e.g. Japanese, Chinese, Thai, etc.), Baked goods, Soy sauce, Tamari sauce, Teriyaki sauce, Miso, Vegetable broth, Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), Vegetable gum, Vegetable starch

Allergy symptoms

Symptoms of food allergies include:

  • Hives
  • Flushed skin or rash
  • Face, tongue, or lip swelling
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Swelling of the throat and vocal cords
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Tingling or itchy sensation in the mouth
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Coughing or wheezing
basic-allergy-test-front
Our Basic Allergy Test Kit.

In rare cases, food allergies can be life-threatening, leading to a severe condition known as anaphylaxis. Even though most symptoms of food allergies only result in skin reactions and digestive issues, anaphylaxis can also happen in rare cases, mostly in peanut allergy cases. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

constricted airways in the lungs

Low Blood pressure and shock

Swelling of the throat and larynx

Most symptoms of anaphylaxis start mild and become life-threatening within minutes of happening. When one suffers from anaphylaxis, you must use an EpiPen on them, and if they don’t have one, you need to contact emergency medical services.

Food allergy test

If you suspect you have food allergies, you may need to go to your doctor and see whether the symptoms you’re witnessing could result from underlying conditions. You’ll need to take an Allergy Test home test kit if everything is ruled out. Sometimes figuring out which food is causing you allergy symptoms can be difficult because we consume different foods simultaneously. An allergy test kit will show you which foods you’re allergic to so you can avoid them.

References

  1. https://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/about-anaphylaxis/14-major-food-allergens/
  2. https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/media/document/top-allergy-types.pdf