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Food allergies

Consumer advice

Food allergy is an abnormal response to a food triggered by your body's immune system. Allergic reactions to food can sometimes cause serious illness and death.  New legislation about how food is labelled came into force in December 2014 affecting food businesses in the UK.

The legislation requires that foods you buy from shops will have the allergens emphasised in the ingredients list either in bold, underlined or highlighted text. You will no longer see separate information listing the allergens in a food.

Foods without packaging, for example if you’re eating out at a restaurant have to show the 14 allergens used in any of the meals. This will have to be displayed in the restaurant or you will be able to ask a member of staff and they will be able to tell you if any of the 14 allergens are in any of the meals. If a business would rather tell you which of the 14 allergens in the meals by person, they must have a sign telling you how to get this information.

These rules will only cover 14 major allergens. If you are allergic to any other food that is not on the regulatory list,  you will have to continue to make other arrangements to find out if these are used in the foods you eat.

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If you do have an allergy to certain foods, you can use chef cards.
A chef card is a personalised card that describes in detail the foods you cannot eat, alternative names for the ingredient, and/or how to safely prepare your food to avoid cross-contamination. You hand these to a member of staff at the eatery, who will check with the chef what meals will be safe for you to eat. Make copies of the card and keep them with you.
14 allergens that need to be declared are: 
  • Cereals containing gluten
  • Crustaceans, for example prawns, crabs, lobster and crayfish
  • Molluscs, for example clams, mussels, whelks, oysters, snails and squid
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans
  • Milk
  • Nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan nuts, pistachio, cashew and macadamia (Queensland) nuts
  • Celery and celeriac
  • Mustard
  • Sesame
  • Sulphur dioxide, which is a preservative found in some dried fruit
  • Lupin
Visit the Food standards agency website for more information and resource.

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Business advice

Food allergy is an abnormal response to a food triggered by your body's immune system. Allergic reactions to food can sometimes cause serious illness and death. In December 2014 new legislation about how food is labelled will come into force and will affect food businesses, especially in the UK.

•If you are packing food, then the allergens need to be highlighted in the ingredients list, and you can no longer have a separate declaration of allergens present.
•If you sell packed food yourself (eg from a market stall) then you need to state the name of the food and any allergens present
•If you are a caterer (including restaurants, takeaways, staff canteens etc) you need to be able to tell customers what allergens are in your meals. This can be done on the menu, price list or can be done by displaying a notice to the effect that customers can ask staff for information about allergens. It is not an option to say you don’t know.

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•Cereals containing gluten
•Crustaceans, for example prawns, crabs, lobster and crayfish
•Molluscs, for example clams, mussels, whelks, oysters, snails and squid
•Fish
•Eggs
•Peanuts
•Soybeans
•Milk
•Nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan nuts, pistachio, cashew and macadamia (Queensland) nuts
•Celery and celeriac
•Mustard
•Sesame
•Sulphur dioxide, which is a preservative found in some dried fruit
•Lupin

Visit the Food standards agency website for more information and resources.

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Last updated: 23 January 2017 | Last reviewed: 23 January 2017