Food Allergens

Food Allergens Legislation

The laws in Europe and the USA requires that food labels identify the food source names of all major food allergens used to make the food.

Although most food allergies cause relatively mild and minor symptoms, some food allergies can cause severe reactions, and may even be life-threatening. Symptoms of a food allergy can range from moderate, such as tingling in the mouth and a skin rash, to life threatening, such as a severe swelling of the throat that makes it difficult to breathe. A life-threatening allergic reaction is known as anaphylaxis. There is no cure for food allergies therefore avoidance of certain food types is important to previous serious health repercussions.

European Legislation under Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 establishes the general principles, requirements and responsibilities governing food information and in particular food labelling. As the legislation is regularly updated, please click here to view  legislation updates.

The FDA US Food & Drug Administration enforces the Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 in the US. The Act applies to the labelling of foods regulated by FDA which includes all foods except poultry, most meats, certain egg products, and most alcoholic beverages which are regulated by other Federal agencies. The Act requires that food labels must clearly identify the food source names of any ingredients that are one of the major food allergens or contain any protein derived from a major food allergen. link

8 Food Allergens in the USA

The following 8 food allergens are identified under the Act in the USA.

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish (e.g., bass, flounder, cod)
  • Crustacean shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, shrimp)
  • Tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans)
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Soybeans

14 Food Allergens in Europe

The following 14 food allergens are identified under EU Legislation in Europe.

  • Celery
  • Cereals containing gluten
  • Crustaceans
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Lupins
  • Milk
  • Molluscs
  • Mustard
  • Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soya
  • Sulphur dioxide (sulphites)

According to the British Dietetic Association, 60% of 16-24s with food allergy/intolerance worry about eating out? Staff in restaurants should know about and be able to provide information about allergens. link

Food Allergy or Intolerance?

The major differences between a food allergy and a food intolerance are listed below. link

  • An allergy produces specific symptoms, such as swelling of the lips, which usually develops within minutes of eating the food, while an intolerance produces more general symptoms, such as indigestion and bloating, that can develop several hours after eating.
  • Only a tiny particle of food is needed to trigger a food allergy, whereas you would usually need to eat a larger amount of food to trigger an intolerance.
  • The symptoms of a food allergy can be life threatening, whereas the symptoms of a food intolerance, unpleasant as they can be, are never immediately life threatening.