The Main Allergens: What Are They And How To Face Them?

In our restaurant, we take into account customer allergies. More and more people must manage this health problem. In today’s post, I explain better what allergens are and how to cope with them.

What Are They And How To Face Them?
The Main Allergens


A food allergen is a compound which can be found in those products that we consume and damage health in people who are sensitive to them. They are harmless, but in some consumers they cause an exaggerated reaction in the immune system.

The allergic ability of allergens may disappear when cooked or processed. In fact, modern techniques (pressure, fermentation, refining and enzymatic treatment) try to reduce the allergenicity of food proteins.

Food Allergen Table

There are more than 160 foods that can cause allergies to people. However, the European Union identifies fourteen main allergenic foods. These are the food sources from which other ingredients are derived:


Almonds, hazelnuts, nuts, cashews, pecans that you can find in breads, desserts, ice cream, biscuits, marzipan, sauces and oils.

Allergy to nuts is one of the most frequent. The reaction may appear up to two hours later but in  most cases it is immediate and intense.


Butter, oil, flour, biscuits, cakes, chocolate, curries, desserts, sauces, etc.

Fish and fish-based products

Pizzas, stock cubes and salad dressings.

Together with shellfish, it is one of the allergens that causes the most reactions. Proteins, Anisakis or histamine can be the cause of allergy.

Crustaceans or seafood

Crabs, lobster, prawns, carabineros jumbo prawns, crayfish in sauces, creams, prepared dishes, etc..

In this case, allergies can affect only one group of shellfish. In addition, this typology is related to mites, atopy and the practice of physical exercise.


Sauces, pasta, oils, tofu, desserts, miso pasta, meat products and vegetarian products.


Butter, cheese, cream, yogurt, soups and sauces.

Milk causes negative effects on the body. It is important to differentiate cow’s milk protein allergy from lactose intolerance, very common in the population.

Eggs and egg products

Cakes, meat products, mayonnaise, mousses, pasta, quiches and sauces.

This allergen affects, above all, children because it is difficult for them to digest the protein content present in this food.

The Main Allergens

Cereals containing gluten

Wheat, spelt and kamut wheat, rye, barley and oats.

It is important to distinguish cereal allergy from celiac disease.

Celery and derived products

Celery salt, salads, meat products, soups, sauces, etc…

Mustard and derived products

Breads, curries, marinades, meat products, dressings, sauces and soups.

Sesame seeds and sesame-based products

Potatoes, oils, flour and bread.

Sulfur dioxide and sulphites

Preservatives for crustaceans, dried fruits, meat products, vegetables, wine and beer.

Molluscs and mollusc products

Mussels, clams, snails, oysters, periwinkles, cockles, also in creams, sauces and prepared dishes.

Lupin and lupin-based products

Bread, cakes and raisins.

These fourteen foods cause 90% of allergic reactions. The European Union drew up a Regulation on Food Information (1169/2011), that establishes obligations for the following food businesses:

  • Public dining rooms.
  • Catering services.
  • Restaurants.
  • Bars.
  • Vending machines.

Food labeling

Each year, millions of Americans have an allergic reaction to food. Therefore, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) was enacted by the FDA (US Food & Drug Administration) in 2004. This law requires that foods are labeled to identify any protein derived from the products that the United States consider. Unlike the European Union, the United States only recognize eight allergens.

As in the United States, European countries include the mandatory description on the labels.

In this way, allergic people are helped to identify the food and its source.

How must this appear on the label? It can be shown in two ways:

  • In parentheses, following the name of the ingredient.
  • In a ‘contains’ statement next to the list of ingredients.

In the European territory, companies that do not comply with food safety regulations can be sanctioned with a fine of from € 5,000 to € 600,000.

How to recognize an allergic reaction?

  • Cough.
  • Whistles when breathing.
  • Rashes.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Dizziness.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Hives.
  • Swelling of the face, lips or tongue.
  • Breathing difficulty.
  • Tingling sensation in mouth.

Symptoms of a food allergy?

Food allergies cannot be avoided. What plan should be followed?

  • Allergen recognition.
  • Treatment and monitoring.
  • Avoid that food.

Most allergies develop mild symptoms. Few of them cause more serious signs or represent a vital risk, such as anaphylaxis. In the United States, this reaction produces at least 150 deaths a year.

What Are They And How To Face Them?
The Main Allergens

Consequences does anaphylaxis cause?

  • Airway restriction.
  • Decrease of blood pressure.
  • Choking caused by throat inflammation
  • Anaphylactic shock: it is a serious and progressive reaction characterized by a decrease of blood pressure that may cause death.

What is the difference between allergy and intolerance?

It is important to clarify the difference between allergy and intolerance. A food allergy is an instantaneous reaction which immediately triggers the immune system. A food intolerance takes longer to appear because it does not involve the immune system. It is a digestive system response when a person is unable to properly digest lactose and gluten.


Nowadays, the population is better informed about this issue. As far as catering is concerned, most countries require that food businesses provide clear allergen statements. Moreover, food allergy can appear at any age.