About allergies and intolerance

As I am a chef and not a medical professional, I have taken the following information about allergies and intolerances from the Food Standards Agency.

About Food Allergies

A food allergy is caused when the immune system thinks certain foods are harmful to the body.  An allergic reaction can occur as soon as a food is eaten or up to a few hours later.

There is no cure. An allergy can only be managed by completely cutting the food out of a person’s diet and taking care that the food they do eat has not come into contact with the allergen.

Anti-allergy medication can be used to relieve allergy symptoms.

For mild reactions, antihistamines can be used, but for severe anaphylactic reaction, which can be life-threatening, an injection of adrenaline is required. People with severe allergies should always carry an auto-injector of adrenaline with them.

Visit the NHS website for more information http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/food-allergy/Pages/Intro1.aspx

Common symptoms of a food allergy are:

  • Dry, itchy throat and tongue
  • Itchy skin and rash
  • Nausea and feeling bloated
  • Diarrhoea and / or vomiting
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Swelling of lips and throat
  • Coughing
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Sore, red and itchy eyes
  • A severe reaction can be life threatening, this is called anaphylaxis. This can be fatal if not treated straight away, usually with an injection of adrenaline.  People with severe allergies should take their medication with them wherever they go.

The following are some of the foods people may be allergic to.

  • Peanuts – found in sauces, cakes, desserts, groundnut oil, peanut flour.
  • Nuts – found in sauces, desserts, crackers, bread, ice cream, marzipan, ground almonds, nut oils.
  • Soya – As tofu or beancurd, soya flour and textured soya protein, some ice creams, yogurts, sauces, desserts, meat products, vegetarian products, ready made meals, margarines, lecithin.
  • Mustard – Including liquid mustard, mustard powder and mustard seeds, in salad dressings, marinades, soups, sauces, curries, meat products.
  • Lupin – lupin seeds and flour found in some types of bread and pastries.
  • Eggs – found in cakes, mousses, sauces, pasta, quiche, some meat products, mayonnaise, foods brushed with egg.
  • Fish – found in some salad dressings, pizzas, relishes, fish sauce and some soy and Worcestershire sauces.
  • Shellfish – prawns, mussels, scampi, crab, oyster sauce, shrimp paste.
  • Gluten – found in cereals such as wheat, rye and barley and foods containing flour, such as bread, pasta, cakes, pastry, meat products, sauces, soups, batter, stock cubes, breadcrumbs, food dusted with flour. Most oats are also contaminated with gluten containing cereals in the milling process.
  • Sesame seeds – found in bread, breadsticks, tahini, houmous, sesame oil.
  • Celery – including celery stalks, leaves and seeds and celeriac, in salads, soups, celery salt, some meat products.
  • Sulphur dioxide – found in meat products, fruit juice drinks, dried fruit and vegetables, wine, beer.
  • Milk and products thereof –  Cream, butter, cheese, yogurt. Found in many ready-made foods.
    a) whey used for making alcoholic distillates including ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin
    b) lactitol
  • Molluscs and products thereof abalone, clams, mussels, octopus, oysters, squid and scallops.

A food intolerance is different from a food allergy and can be caused by the body’s inability to digest certain foods. It is not usually life-threatening, but can make a person very ill or adversely affect their long-term health.

People with food intolerances can usually consume small amounts of the food they are intolerant to without getting ill, although this does vary from person to person. The most common symptoms can include diarrhoea, weight loss, bloating and anaemia.

Diagnosing a food intolerance other than coeliac disease and lactose intolerance is difficult. One method is to eliminate the specific food from your diet, but you should always speak to your doctor before doing this.

About Coeliac Disease

It is estimated that one in 100 people in the UK has coeliac disease, source – http://www.coeliac.org.uk/coeliac-disease/myths-about-coeliac-disease

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition. This means the body has a reaction to a trigger – in this case, gluten – which causes the body to attack itself.

For coeliacs, eating even the tiniest amount of gluten causes the lining of the small intestine to become damaged, preventing the normal absorption of nutrients. Other parts of the body may also be affected. However, the good news is that cutting out foods containing gluten will gradually return the stomach lining to normal.

Found naturally in wheat, barley and rye, gluten also contaminates oats  during the milling process. ‘Pure’ oats are available, but whilst these are free from contamination, some coeliacs may still suffer an adverse reaction, because oats contain a similar protein.

The new standard set for the whole of the EU is a maximum level of 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten in order for foods to be labelled as ‘gluten free’, and 100ppm of gluten for foods labelled as ‘very low gluten’ – restricted to foods processed to remove gluten. The new Regulations align EU law with the Codex. Please check the limit set for your country.

Symptoms of coeliac disease include diarrhoea, anaemia, weight loss, fatigue, bloating and sickness.

About Wheat Intolerance

According to the Food Standards Agency, wheat intolerance – which is not the same thing as gluten intolerance – is thought to be one of the more common food intolerances. Diagnosing a food intolerance other than coeliac disease and lactose intolerance is difficult, but symptoms can include bloating, headaches and joint pain. People suffering with these symptoms may choose to cut wheat from their diet for a period of time and see if this alleviates the symptoms. You should always speak to your doctor before doing this.

For more information, visit http://www.allergyuk.org/fs_wheat.aspx

About Wheat Allergy

Wheat allergy symptoms can include headaches, sneezing, itching, rashes, colds, coughs, sickness and body aches. This allergy has also been linked to asthma, eczema, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis.

A doctor can refer a patient for a skin-prick test to diagnose a wheat allergy. For more information, visit http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/allergies/pages/foodallergy.aspx

About Lactose Intolerance

Around 5% of people in the UK has some form of intolerance to lactose, a sugar found in the milk of all animals and therefore contained in butter, cream, yoghurt and other milk products. This intolerance is caused by a lack of the enzyme required to digest lactose – although some sufferers are able to cope with small amounts. Symptoms usually include a bloated and painful stomach, weight loss, anaemia and diarrhoea.

Many people with a lactose intolerance will also develop an intolerance to soya.

For more information, visit http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Lactose-intolerance/Pages/Introduction.aspx

About Egg Intolerance

Egg allergy or intolerance is also common, especially in young children, although many grow out of it by the age of five or six.

Visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/food-allergy/Pages/Intro1.aspx

Symptoms include itchiness, rash, stomach cramps, nausea and breathing problems. Cooking with eggs can also bring on symptoms. When checking packaging, be aware that egg may also be labelled as albumen.

About Vegan Diet

Vegans do not eat any foods of animal origin. This includes meat, fish and dairy foods, and also honey.

For more information, visit www.vegansociety.com

About Diabetes

Diabetes develops when the body can’t process glucose properly. As a result, diabetics can have abnormally high levels of glucose in their blood if the condition isn’t controlled.

What should people with diabetes eat?

People with diabetes should try to maintain a healthy weight and eat a diet that is:

  • low in fat (particularly saturated fat)
  • low in sugar
  • low in salt
  • high in fruit and vegetables (at least five portions a day)
  • high in starchy carbohydrate foods, such as bread, chapatti, rice, pasta and yams (these should form the base of meals) – preferably wholegrain varieties.

There are no foods that people with diabetes should avoid completely – cakes and biscuits can be enjoyed sparingly as part of a balanced diet. Whilst there is no need to cut out all sugar, diabetics – like everyone – should try to eat only small amounts of foods that are high in sugar and/or fat.

For more information, visit www.diabetes.org.uk


Halal is the description of food and drink allowed by Muslims under Islamic dietary laws. Because alcohol is forbidden, in cake-making this would include alcohol in vanilla extract or other flavourings and some food colouring. Powder colourings can be diluted for painting with rose water instead of alcohol.

For more information visit http://mideastfood.about.com/od/middleeasternfood101/a/halalfoods.htm


Jewish dietary laws state that meat and dairy products may not be made or consumed together.

If a Kosher food is cooked in the same oven as a non-Kosher food, then it becomes non-Kosher.

Utensils and equipment used for non-Kosher food preparation cannot be used for cooking Kosher food. However, disposable equipment can be used.

Ovens, stove tops, fridges, microwaves and dishwashers need to be scrupulously cleaned before use in a certain way.

For more information about cooking for a Kosher diet in a non-Kosher kitchen, visit  www.hanefesh.com/edu/Kosher_Kitchen.htm

For more information visit www.kosherfood.about.com