What is a food allergy?
A food allergy is a rapid and potentially serious response to a food by your immune system. It can trigger classic allergy symptoms such as a rash, wheezing and itching.
The most common food allergies among adults are fish, shellfish and nuts, including peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts and Brazil nuts. Children often have allergies to milk and eggs as well as to peanuts, other nuts and fish.
What is an intolerance?
Food intolerances are more common than food allergies.
The symptoms of food intolerance tend to appear more slowly, often many hours after eating the problem food. Typical symptoms include bloating and stomach cramps.
It's possible to be intolerant to several different foods, which can make it difficult to identify which foods are causing the problem.
What can trigger an allergic reaction to food?
An allergic reaction can be produced by a tiny amount of a food ingredient that a person is sensitive to, for example, a teaspoon of milk powder, a fragment of peanut or just one or two sesame seeds.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction can range from mild symptoms, such as itching around the mouth and rashes, and can progress to more severe symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, wheezing and, on occasion, anaphylaxis (shock).
Is there a cure for food allergies?
There is no cure for food allergies. The only way to manage the condition is to avoid the foods that make you ill.
This can be achieved by checking ingredients, details on labels of prepacked foods and being provided allergen information for non-prepacked foods. It is very important that food businesses provide clear and accurate information about allergenic ingredients in their products.