Since December 2014, EU legislation classified 14 major food allergens which fall under the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI). It is a legal requirement that food businesses must provide allergen information in any food they sell or provide, making it easier for people with food allergies and even those with food intolerances to identify the ingredients and trigger foods they need to avoid.
What are the 14 listed allergens?
There are 14 major allergens that should be legally mentioned when they are used as ingredient – both packaged and loose. These are:
- Celery: You can find celery in salt, meat products and, surprisingly, stock cubes and soups. Symptoms of a celery allergy are usually mild and concentrated to itchiness in the throat and mouth. An allergy to celery is one of the most common pollen-related food allergies among adults in Europe, according to anaphylaxis.org.
- Cereals containing gluten: This includes wheat, rye, barley and oats. This allergen is found in an abundance of food, including baking powders, cakes, meat products, pasta and sauces.
- Crustaceans: This food group involves crab, prawns, scampi and lobster and is one of the most common food allergies. These reactions tend to be severe and are not always triggered by eating shellfish. Due to the cooking process and the proteins in the shellfish, allergic reactions can be triggered when the proteins are air-born too.
- Eggs: Found in pastries, mayonnaise, cakes and quiches. According to the NHS, many cases of egg allergy are relatively mild. Signs of a food allergy to egg include aggravated asthma and abdominal pain.
- Lupin: Derived from a flower but can often be found in flour and some pasties or pasta. There is also an allergen crossover between peanut and lupin. If you’re allergic to lupin, there is a high chance you’re allergic to peanut, too. This is because both foods belong to the same botanical group, also known as legumes.
- Milk: a common ingredient found in cream, butter, cheese, yoghurt and milk powders. Milk is another common allergy. It is thought that between 2 and 3% of children who are younger than 3 are allergic to milk. However, the NHS advise that half of these children are likely to outgrow their milk allergy by the time they are 16.
- Molluscs: Mussels, clams, scallops, squids and whelks. Molluscs are also found in oyster sauce and fish cakes or pies. This allergy can be severe and, the same with lupin, the allergenic proteins can be found in different species of mollusc, so it is not unusual to be allergic to more than one type of mollusc.
- Mustard: You either love it or hate it. This can be found in salad dressings and curries. A mustard allergy is relatively rare in the UK and Ireland but increasingly problematic in Spain and France.
- Nuts: Excluding peanuts. This food group grow on trees, such as cashew nuts, almonds and hazelnuts. Watch out for some ice cream and nut oils. Along with egg, crustaceans and milk, nuts are also a highly common allergy.
- Peanuts: Did you know that peanuts are actually legumes and are grown underground? These are a common allergen culprit, hiding in some foods like satay sauce and marzipan. Botanically, peanuts are related to peas, beans and lentils. A peanut allergy always needs to be taken seriously. Signs of an allergic reaction to peanuts includes swelling in the throat and mouth, and difficulty breathing.
- Sesame seeds: Find these sprinkled over a hamburger or in Thai cooking. An allergy to sesame usually begins early in life but should always be taken seriously in danger of leading to anaphylaxis.
- Soya: Often a staple ingredient in oriental cooking. Soya is found in textured soya protein, tofu and a high level of processed food.
- Sulphur Dioxide: Commonly found in alcoholic beverages and dried fruits such as raisins or prunes.
What is Natasha's Law?
‘Natasha’s Law’ provides all food businesses to include full ingredients labelling on pre-packaged food by summer 2021. Before the law came into place, non-packaged foods are not required to display allergen information on the packaging. The new legislation, approved by environmental secretary Michael Gove, will seek to tighten existing labelling laws in the UK.
Will Brexit affect the allergen regulation?
As the allergen classification list is an EU regulation, it is currently unknown whether this will still be in place once the UK leave the European Union. It is likely this will remain the same, however, for any food labelling changes, particular if there’s a no-deal Brexit, you can find out more information here.
Allergens across the globe
The amount of food allergens declared on pre-packaged food is not universally standardised. The UK and Europe classify 14 major food allergens. America, for example, only classifies 8. The Food Allergens Labeling and Consumer Protection Acts (FALCPA), introduced in 2006, applies to:
- Tree nuts
This means that molluscs (shellfish such as oysters, clams, mussels), sesame, mustard and celery, are no required to be labelled under FALCPA.
More confusingly, Australia and New Zealand identify 10 food allergens, Japan identify 7 core allergens and Canada identify 11 which must be identified in English and French.
Are you travelling abroad with a food allergy or food intolerance? Prepare yourself by checking the food labelling laws before you fly to see if they classify your trigger food as a major allergen. Find out where is best and worst places are to travel with a food intolerance here.
Are you struggling to identify your food allergy or food intolerance? If you experience any life-threatening reactions, it’s always important to seek advice from your GP or medical practitioner.
Food intolerances, although not life-threatening unlike allergies, can be difficult to pinpoint as they can take up to three days to show symptoms.
Our food intolerance tests analyse your IgG reactions to up to 208 food and drink ingredients. You can view our tests here.