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  5 April, 2017   |   Harmlessness  |  

Recently, food allergies have prevailed, awakening people’s interest. Currently, about 2-4% of adults and 6% of kids suffered a any type of food allergy. Even though we have more information than ever about food causing allergies, this matter is still a complex and difficult topic.


What provokes a food allergy?


The immune system protects the body from outer damaging proteins by eliminating them from the system. When the immune system doesn’t work properly reacts to a natural substance as a threat (an allergen). When a real allergic reaction occurs, the body produces antibodies (correlating proteins with allergens neutralizing and eliminating them from the body). There are many types of antibodies, but those related to food allergies are known as immunoglobulins E (IgE). The IgE antibody joins the allergens and triggering an allergic reaction.


During an allergic reaction, the IgE activates a molecule’s segregation into the bloodstream at the same time triggers common symptoms of food allergies, like skin rashes, lip inflammation, nausea, abdominal pain, swelling, vomit, and diarrhea. Fortunately, most food allergic reactions are not severe and rarely jeopardize life.


Is this intolerance or allergy?


Even though a lot of people talks about food allergies or allergic reaction related to any unpleasant reaction after eating, in many cases, this is just an intolerance or dislike. Real allergic reactions happen after eating, activating the immune system producing IgE. Food intolerance symptoms usually take time to show up, there’s no immune reaction and includes swelling, diarrhea or constipation. An example of intolerance is lactose intolerance, people with this issue lack digestive enzymes lactase that separates lactose, the sugar in the milk. Consequently, the gut bacteria turn lactose producing gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.


Common food allergies


In theory, all food can cause an allergy, at Europe 14 food allergens represent most of the food allergies risk (chart 1), therefore, its inclusion in the nutritional label was legislated. It’s important to know that many kids stop suffering allergies when they get older.


White lupin
Cereals with gluten
Sulfur dioxide (used as antioxidant and preservative, e.g. dried fruit, wine, processed potatoes)
Dried fruit and nuts
Sea food
Sesame seeds
Soya bean


Threshold values


Among 2-4% of adults and 6% of kids suffer food allergies. The number of allergens that triggers an allergic reaction might vary. The minimum number of allergens in food is named threshold. Since people react differently to the threshold is difficult to identify a max concentration of an allergen in food. Nowadays, one of the main targets of research about this topic is to develop a good gravity reaction indicator in many people.


The European Union (EU) legislation


Currently, there’s no cure for food allergies. The only option people have is to avoid food holding allergens. To ensure a suitable availability of information, the European Commission (EC) has legislated 14 principal food allergens (see chart 1), or any other manufactured ingredient, it shall appear in the label of food bottle (Excluding sulfur dioxide if it’s present in concentrations below of 10mg/kg).


It may contain…


During the production of processed food, to avoid contaminating products with other food allergens, it shall be appropriate separation and hygiene practices. However, a product not made with dried fruit might have a trace of any other product allergens since it was made in the same facilities.In most cases, the probability a label indicates the following, ” it may contain…” is voluntary and offers important information to consumers.


14 allergens shall be declared on labels if they are used as ingredients. The following list includes these allergens and some food examples in which they can be found:


White lupin In addition to flour seeds, these can be found in some types of bread, cakes, pasta, among others.
Celery Including in stalk, seeds, and roots, also, celery salt, salads, some meat products, soups or sauces, and other products.
Peanuts In addition to seeds, pasta (animal fat) oils and flours, can be found at cookies, chocolates, curry’s, desserts, salsa, among others.
Cereals with gluten In addition to wheat (also spelt, kamut) rye, barley and sand. Also, in food made with bread, breadcrumbs, sandwich, couscous, meat products, pasta, bakery, salsas, soup and entangled foods. Cereal shall be declared. To indicate the presence of gluten is voluntary.
Crustacean Including in crabs, lobsters, shrimps, prawns, carabiners, crayfish, among others, also in creams, salsa prepared dishes and other foods.
Nuts Include in almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and others. Also, in bread, cookies, desserts, ice cream, Mazapan, salsas or nuts oils, among others. In many Asian dishes like curry’s chopped almonds are used.
Sesame seeds Besides the seeds (grains) pasta (tahini the sesame paste), oils, flour, also in bread, breadstick, hummus and other food.

In addition, in eggs and derivates (products made from an egg), also in cakes, some meats, mayonnaise, mousse, pasta, quiches, ready meals, sauces, and foods decorated with egg, among others. 

Milk Milk and milk byproducts like butter, cheese, milk skin, milk powder, yogurt, and other products, it’s also found in milk, glazed foods, powdered soups, sauces and so on.
Mollusk Also, in the mussel, clams, land snails, oysters, periwinkles, cockles, among others, besides in creams and sauces (e.g. oyster sauce), prepared dishes or as an ingredient in fish stews.
Mustard Besides being in seeds, powder and liquid, also in bread, curry, marinades, meat products, salad dressings, sauces, and soups.  
Fish Also, in fishes and fish products, also in fish salsas, pizzas for salads, soup cubes, among others.
Soy Besides seeds (broad bean) salsa, pasta, oils, and flour, also in tofu, miso paste, desserts, ice cream, meat products, sauces, and products for vegetarians.
Sulfites/Sulfur Dioxide Use as preservatives in crustaceans, dried fruits, meat products, soft drinks, vegetables, wine, and beer.





  • Directiva 2007/68/CE de la Comisión de 27 de noviembre 2007 link
  • European Commission Joint Research Centre, the Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements section link
  • European Food Safety Authority, News and Press Room section link
  • Food Standards Agency, Guidance on Allergen Management and Consumer Information, Multimedia section link
  • Protall, Food allergens of plant origin – the relationship between allergenic potential and biological activity, infosheet section link

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