In December 2014 it became law to have the 14 most common allergens clearly labelled and available to consumers, shifting the responsibility from diners to restaurants and demanding a new level of transparency in the food industry.
However, despite much progress, an FSA survey has shown that 69% of participants have experienced staff who do not understand the severity of an allergy and how easily a mistake could cause a reaction.
Similarly, 68% of participants considered staff to show a lack of allergen knowledge, confusing eggs with dairy and gluten with Lupin (a grain commonly used in place of wheat).
We’re here to help. Download our free allergen poster for your kitchen to help make staff aware of the 14 main allergens. Find it at the end of this post!
The 14 main food allergens that must be labelled on pre-packed foods when used as ingredients are:
Celery is a vegetable that can be eaten in its raw form as celery sticks and used in cooking. Ingredient varieties include celery leaves, celery spice, celery seeds and celery salt. People with celery allergies should also be aware of celeriac allergies, the causes and the effects. Like celery, except with celeriac, the root is the main edible part, not the stalk and leaves.
2. Cereals containing gluten
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, oats and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected.
Crustacean allergies often fall under the label of a ‘shellfish allergy’ and include foods such as shrimp, prawn, crabs and lobsters. Those allergic to crustaceans can also react to molluscan shellfish such as oysters, clams, mussels and scallops, which also fall under the ‘shellfish’ label.
Egg allergies are one of the most common food allergies amongst children, with experts estimating that as many as 2% of children are allergic to eggs. Those with an egg allergy have a reaction to the proteins in egg whites or yolks. Despite many children having allergies to eggs, it is often something that is grown out of in late life.
People who are allergic to one type of fish have a high chance of reacting to others. Perhaps surprisingly those with a crustacean, mollusc or shellfish allergy are not automatically allergic to fish, and vice-versa. It is important to remember that fish oils, fish sauce and fish products of any kind can be harmful to someone with a fish allergy, this includes sauces such as Worcester sauce which contains anchovies.
The peanut is a legume, related botanically to foods such as peas, beans and lentils. Tree nuts are in a different botanical category. A significant proportion of people with peanut allergy are also allergic to tree nuts or will become allergic to them.
There are two types of soya allergy: ‘IgE mediated’ (where the allergic reaction is immediate) and ‘non-IgE mediated’ (where the allergic reaction is delayed). Soya is a food protein derived from the soya bean, which is a legume. Soya beans may be eaten fresh but are more usually dried. They are often called edamame when fresh or frozen. Soya (also known as soy) is a common ingredient in many foods . The beans are ground to make soya flour, which is often found in bread and baked goods, including some baked bean products.
Milk proteins are found in many foods, including all dairy products, and in many places where they might not be expected. For example, some canned tuna, sausage, meats and other non-dairy products may contain casein. Beverage mixes and body-building and energy drinks commonly contain whey. Milk protein has also been found in some chewing gum.
There’s often confusion between peanuts and tree nuts. Peanuts are legumes, not nuts; still, between 25 and 40 percent of individuals who are allergic to peanuts also react to at least one tree nut. Tree nuts are in a different botanical category and include almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashew nuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, pistachios and macadamia nuts.
10. Sesame seeds
Those who are allergic to sesame you must seek to avoid it completely, as even a tiny amount may trigger a severe reaction. Watch out for sesame in Asian cuisine, cereals and crackers.
11. Sulphur Dioxide
Sulphur dioxide is produced naturally in the production process of wine and beer and is sometimes used as a preservative for dried fruits owing to its antimicrobial properties, (it is sometimes called E220 when used in this way.)
Oysters, clams, mussels and scallops are all molluscs. As with crustaceans they often fall under the label of ‘shellfish’.CeleryCelery is used in food in various forms including: sticks, leaves , spice and seeds, which can be used to make celery salt. People with a celery allergy should also be made aware if a dish contains celeriac. Celeriac and celery are varieties of the same species.
In addition to jars of mustard, there are other foods derived from the mustard plant. These include mustard leaves, seeds, flowers, sprouted mustard seeds, mustard oil, and all foods that contain these.
The seeds from some varieties of lupin plants are also cultivated as food. These are normally crushed to make lupin flour, which can be used in baked goods such as pastries, pies, pancakes and in pasta.
For more information about the 2014 allergen legislation and how it affects your business read our blog post Food information regulations, how far have we come?