Food allergy awareness

Food allergies are becoming more common.

  • 5 - 8% of children have a food allergy
  • 1 - 2% of adults have a food allergy
  • 1.92 million people have a food allergy in the UK

People with food allergies have to be extremely careful about what they eat. There can be serious consequences if they eat something they are allergic to.

Allergen list

There are currently 14 food ingredients classed as an allergen. These are:

  • Cereals containing gluten, such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, kamut and their hybridised strains
  • Peanuts (also called groundnuts)
  • Nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, macadamias and Queensland nuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Fish
  • Crustaceans (includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps and prawns)
  • Molluscs (includes mussels, cockles, oysters, scallops, squid and octopus)
  • Eggs
  • Milk and milk products (including lactose)
  • Soy beans
  • Celery
  • Lupin
  • Mustard
  • Sulphur dioxide and sulphites at levels above 10 mg/kg or 10 mg/litre expressed as SO2.


Labels on pre-packed food items will have the presence of any allergens emphasised in the ingredients list so that they stand out from the other ingredients. This is done for example by allergens being stated in bold or CAPITAL LETTERS. 

It is also important to check the label for any 'May Contain' allergen warnings such as “Made in a factory that handles nuts”.

For further information please see the following Food Standards Agency (external link).

Eating out

If you have a food allergy and are eating out in restaurants, cafes, takeaways or buying food from places that make it themselves, ALWAYS announce your allergies or intolerances before ordering. This is so that the business can tell you what you can eat.

Be aware that even if food is wrapped, it does not automatically mean that it will have allergen labelling as current provisions allow for allergen information to be given verbally in some circumstances.

Kitchens are very busy places and if you suffer from a food allergy, you need to carefully consider the potential for mistakes to be made and the risk of accidental cross contamination, when you place an order.

Cross contamination happens when foods accidentally become contaminated with allergens during the preparation and cooking process. This can be from contaminated work surfaces, cooking utensils, the handling of food, and ‘hidden’ ingredients, for example in dressings, oils and sauces.

Toolkit for businesses

Useful websites


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