You may know what some common food allergies are, like milk and nuts, but what are the top 14 allergens and why does it matter?
The top 14 food allergens are the foods that the UK (originally adopted from EU legislation) has listed as the most likely to cause allergic reactions. These foods are:
- Cereals containing gluten
- Sesame seeds
- Soya beans
- Sulpher dioxide
- Tree nuts
What are the top 14 allergens for?
In the UK and Europe, any manufacturer making a food product containing one of these ingredients must list it in on the packaging in bold. This makes it easier for anyone with a food allergy to quickly spot if a product is safe for them to eat.
Restaurants and food servers also need to tell you if any of the allergens are in the food you are ordering. These are the most common allergens, but it is possible to be allergic to any food. However, manufacturers and restaurants do not need to declare anything outside this list and you may find some of them simply listed as ‘spices’ or ‘flavourings’.
There are some ingredients that people get confused about when it comes to allergens. Here are the most common ones:
Are pine nuts a nut?
No, pine nuts are not a nut, they are a seed.
Is coconut a nut?
No, coconut is not a nut, it is classed as a fruit.
Are eggs dairy?
Eggs are not dairy! Dairy is anything derived from cow’s milk, while eggs comes from hens. It is possible to be allergic to milk (dairy) or egg and both are top 14 allergens.
Do companies need to add ‘may contain’ statements for the top 14 allergens?
Many companies will declare if any of these ingredients are present in the production process and there is a risk of any cross contamination. This is called advisory or precautionary labelling but is often referred to as ‘may contain’ statements. The wording can differ across brands and you might see ‘not suitable for’ or ‘made in a factory that handles’. Unfortunately, this kind of labelling is voluntary and companies do not need to declare any risk or use any set wording.
Do allergens need to be declared on non-food items?
Cosmetics and non-food items do not need to follow the same rules and the top 14 allergens are not litsted in bold. Companies often list ingredients under Latin names and this can make it more difficult to identify if something is safe.
Are the top 14 allergens the same across the world?
They are the same in all EU countries but not across the world. For example, in USA there are only 8 top allergens listed.