Each year, millions of Americans have allergic reactions to food. Although most food allergies cause relatively mild and minor symptoms, some food allergies can cause severe reactions, and may even be life-threatening. There is no cure for food allergies. Strict avoidance of food allergens—and early recognition and management of allergic reactions to food—are important measures to prevent serious health consequences.
Here are some key facts about food allergy:
- People suffering severe reactions need emergency expert help from a trained paramedic, usually with injectable adrenaline.
- In the UK, about ten people die every year from food-induced anaphylaxis.
- There are also about 1,500 asthma deaths, some of which might be triggered by food allergy.
- For those at greatest risk, the tiniest trace of food allergen can trigger severe symptoms and, in some cases, cause fatal or near-fatal symptoms.
- Many of those who die or suffer ‘near miss’ reactions had no idea that they were at risk. Those who are aware of the risk can find the day-to-day unpredictability of living with food allergy risks stressful.
- Teenagers and young adults seem to be at particular risk of severe reactions.
- Many people with a food allergy also have asthma, which can make food reactions more severe if it’s not controlled by regular medication.
Which foods can cause allergy?
- In Europe, food allergens are monitored and assessed by clinical and scientific experts through the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). They advise on which foods need to be labelled on pre-packed foods.
- Annex II of the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation No.1169/2011 lists 14 food allergens that must always be labelled in pre-packed and non-prepacked foods.
- Foods that need to be labelled on pre-packed foods when used as ingredients are:
- Cereals containing gluten, namely: wheat (such as spelt and Khorasan wheat), rye, barley, oats
- Crustaceans for example prawns, crabs, lobster, crayfish
- Nuts; namely almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, macadamia (or Queensland) nuts
- Celery (including celeriac)
- Sulphur dioxide/sulphites, where added and at a level above 10mg/kg in the finished product. This can be used as a preservative in dried fruit
- Lupin which includes lupin seeds and flour and can be found in types of bread, pastries and pasta
- Molluscs like clams, mussels, whelks, oysters, snails and squid