Food Allergens - information & guidance

Food Allergens - information & guidance

Food allergy is a serious and growing public health issue. There has been a dramatic increase in allergic diseases in recent years; so much so, that now it is thought that as many as one in three of the UK population, or 21 million people, live with an allergy of some form and this number is increasing at an alarming rate. (Mintel, 2010)

Allergens & Food Businesses

It is the responsibility of all food businesses to provide accurate allergen information if requested.


There are 14 allergens recognised in law. 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

• fish

• crustaceans (includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps and prawns)

• molluscs (includes mussels, cockles, oysters, scallops, squid and octopus)

• sesame seeds

• 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


The Food Information Regulations 2014 require a food business to provide information to customers relating to the allergen content of all its food.

It is a criminal offence not to provide this information.

Allergic reactions can sometimes be life threatening, as in the case of Megan Lee, who was 15 when she had an asthma attack brought on by an allergic reaction she suffered after being served food prepared with nuts.

Megan’s story

What to do in the event of an allergic reaction

If you or someone you are with feels ill or has a reaction to a meal, make sure you seek medical help immediately. Visit the NHS website for treatment of allergies 

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.

How to tell if a food business is allergy aware

It is good practice for a food business to display an allergen poster advising you to ask about allergens in food. They may also display allergen details on their menus. If you feel that a business is not very helpful in supplying allergen information you can report this to Citizens Advice Consumer helpline or contact them on 03454 040506.

For more information on allergens please visit the Anaphylaxis campaign website, the Allergy UK website and the Food Standards Agency website. You can also sign up for regular allergy alerts.