Top 14 Food Allergens

In the UK, there are 14 food allergens that are recognised as the most common ingredients that can cause allergic reactions.

More about food allergy

In the UK, there are 14 food allergens that are recognised as the most common ingredients that can cause allergic reactions.

The 14 allergens are: celery, cereals containing gluten (such as wheat, barley and oats), crustaceans (such as prawns, crabs and lobsters), eggs, fish, lupin, milk, molluscs (such as mussels and oysters), mustard, peanuts, sesame, soybeans, sulphur dioxide and sulphites (if the sulphur dioxide and sulphites are at a concentration of more than ten parts per million) and tree nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios and macadamia nuts).


Celery is often hidden in many foods, which led to it being mandatory in 2014 on food labels as part of the 14 main allergens.

Celery Allergy Factsheet

Cereals Containing Gluten

Cereals containing gluten are cereals that contain the protein gluten. Examples include wheat, rye, oat and barley. A cereal is the edible part of the grain from cultivated grass.

Reactions to Wheat Factsheet


Eggs are one of the most common foods to trigger allergic symptoms in babies and young children. Most children with an egg allergy will start to outgrow it by the time they go to school but in some it will persist into later childhood or in rare cases, adulthood.

Egg Allergy Factsheet

Fish, Crustaceans and Molluscs

Seafood is used as a collective term that includes both fish and shellfish. Shellfish is further divided into crustaceans or molluscs.

Fish and Shellfish Allergy Factsheet

Milk Allergy in Adults

In a small number of people who do not outgrow their allergy to cow’s milk it will persist into adulthood. Where this happens, people are more likely to experience more severe allergic reactions.

Cow's Milk Allergy in Adults

Milk Allergy in Children

Cow’s milk allergy is one of the most common food allergies to affect babies and young children in the United Kingdom. While it mostly affects formula fed babies, breast fed babies can also be affected.

Cow's Milk Allergy in Children


Because mustard is sometimes a masked or hidden allergen in foods it is important to know that it may not be obvious by sight, taste or smell.

Mustard Allergy Factsheet


Despite their name peanuts are not the same as tree nuts which grow on trees. Peanuts grow underground and are part of a different plant family, the legumes.

Peanut Allergy Factsheet


Some people may experience an allergic reaction to sesame. Foods to avoid if they have a sesame allergy include foods containing sesame seeds, sesame oil, and tahini.

Sesame Allergy Factsheet


Soya is widely used in foods and is difficult to avoid. As many as 60% of manufactured foods contain soya. Soya flour is widely used in foods including; breads, cakes, processed foods (ready meals, burgers and sausages) and baby foods. 

Soya Allergy Factsheet

Sulphur Dioxide and Sulphites

Sulphites are preservatives used in the production of some foods and drinks to make them last longer, and helps preserve their colour and flavour.

Sulphite Allergy Factsheet

Tree Nuts

Allergies to tree nuts tend to be persistent and it is rare for people to grow out of them, especially over the age of five.

Tree Nut Allergy Factsheet

Food labelling legislation

These allergens represent the most common sources of severe allergic reactions in individuals, and food labels in the European Union (EU) must clearly indicate their presence to help consumers with allergies make informed choices and avoid allergens that could cause adverse reactions. Consumers may be allergic or have intolerances to other ingredients, but only the top 14 allergens are required to be clearly highlighted (for example in bold type) declared as allergens by food law. For more information on food allergy click here.

New legislation, which came into force on 1 October 2021, known as ‘Natasha’s Law’ now also requires businesses to label all food that is pre-packed for direct sale (known as PPDS) with a full list of ingredients and the 14 allergens emphasised in bold.

Precautionary labelling

(‘May contain…’/’Made in a factory…’ labelling statements)

Currently there is no law to recommend when these statements should be used on a food product. There is large variation between products but generally snacks and dry foods such as cereals, cereal bars, chocolate, biscuits and nuts are at greater risk of crosscontamination with allergens. Some people with food allergy will need to avoid products that include these precautionary statements. Guidance on the need to avoid foods these statements should come from a healthcare professional.

Allergy Translation Cards

Allergy Translation Cards

Translation cards are available from Allergy UK and will ensure others are made aware of your allergy despite any language barriers. The cards are printed in English on one side and the language of the country you are visiting on the reverse side.

Food Allergen Labelling

Food Allergen Labelling

Food companies that produce, manufacture or package food within the UK have been given clear guidance from the Food Standards Agency about the information that is required to be included on a food label. This information helps people that have food allergies, intolerances or dietary needs to make safe and informed choices when they are choosing food items.

Sign up for Allergy Alerts

Sign up for Allergy Alerts

Sometimes foods have to be withdrawn or recalled if there is a risk to consumers. This could be because the allergy labelling is missing or incorrect or if there is any other food allergy risk, such as cross contamination. If you would like to receive an email detailing allergy alerts for a particular allergen(s) click here to subscribe.

Allergen Labelling Changes

Allergen Labelling Changes

New government legislation – referred to as ‘Natasha’s Law’ – came into effect in October 2021 and requires all foods which are prepared and packed on the same premises from which they are sold (known as PPDS – Prepared and Packed for Direct Sale) to have full ingredients listed on the label, with the 14 major allergens emphasised for easy identification.

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