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Last updated: 02.08.19

What are the 14 most common food allergies?

What are the 14 most common food allergies?

Allergies are something that most people are familiar with, as 1 in 5 people are affected by some form of allergic disorder. Among these, food allergies are some of the most common and cover a whole range of different food hypersensitivities. While it’s possible to be allergic to practically any food substance, there are a number which appear to be more prevalent than others. The effects these allergies can have depends entirely on the individual, covering anything from body rashes to potentially fatal reactions, so its good to understand what the most common triggers for these reactions can be.

Why do I need to know about food allergens?

When operating in an environment where food is prepared, whether that’s a shared kitchen within a flat, waitering within a café or working within a production kitchen for a restaurant, it’s important to be aware of what the most common food allergies out there to ensure that there are procedures in place to avoid cross-contamination of allergens and staff are able to provide adequate guidance to customers who suffer from a particular food allergy.

Since December 2014, the Food Information Regulation has been introduced which requires businesses to display information if these allergens are present in any of their foods, so its important to be aware of the allergens if you do work within the food industry, as some of these will almost certainly be present within the foods you serve.

The 14 most common food allergies


This covers both the celery leaves, seeds and stalks, as well as the root that’s referred to as celeriac on food labels, which are typically found within salads, soups and stock cubes.

Cereals (containing gluten)

Wheat, rye, barley and oats all contain the allergen gluten, each normally found within foods containing flour, including but not limited to; batter, breadcrumbs, bread, cakes, pasta, pastry, sauces, soups and many fried foods.


The types of crustacean used within the food industry are typically crab, lobster, prawns and scampi, but they are sometimes found as pastes within Asian cuisine such as shrimp paste.


Eggs are used in a whole range of dishes and sauces, from cakes to quiches to the common condiment – mayonnaise. Because eggs are commonly used in a lot of dishes, this is one to pay particular attention to.


Fish as an allergen might seem quite straightforward, but it often gets used as an ingredients within dressings, relishes, even Worcestershire sauce.


One of the lesser known allergens on this list, lupin flour and seeds are used in certain breads, pastries and pastas.


Mussels and squid are arguably the two main ingredients which you’ll encounter within this category, but molluscs are also found in things like oyster sauce or as part of fish stews for extra flavour.


This encompasses all and all types of mustard out there and has a range of applications. Although you will find mustard as a condiment almost everywhere, it’s also incredibly common as an ingredient in curries, marinades, dressings, sauces and soups.


This allergen refers to nuts which are grown on trees, such as cashew nuts, almonds and hazelnuts, and will be found in a number of different breads and biscuits, pastries and nut powders, and lots of different desserts.


Unlike the general nut category, peanuts grow underground and are actually a legume – hence it also going by the name groundnut. Another common ingredient in cakes, desserts and more, but can be found in the form of a cooking oil.

Sesame seeds

These are typically seen sprinkled onto the top of burger buns, but are also occasionally seen in salads or as an oil used in dressings.


A major component within Asian cooking, soya is becoming increasingly common as an alternative to meat-based products.

Sulphites (Sulphur Dioxide)

Although this allergen’s name might not ring any bells, sulphites are more common than you might think – it’s possible to find it within dried fruits, some meat products, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages.

Top Food Allergy FAQs


What are the required label elements?

Prepackaged food needs to have an ingredients list that emphasises allergenic ingredients, for example by making them bold. If there is a risk of cross-contamination in the production process, the packaging needs to say that it ‘may contain x’ or is ‘not suitable for someone with x allergy’.

What are three things required on a workplace label?

The three things that need to be on a WHMIS workplace label are the product name (matching the one included on the Safety Data Sheet); safe handling precautions, which may include pictograms or other supplier label information; and a reference to the Safety Data Sheet.

What information has to be on a food label?

The product name, safe handling precautions, which may include pictograms or other supplier label information; and a reference to the Safety Data Sheet should be included on a food label.

What information would you find on a Whmis label?


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Food Information for Consumers Regulation 2014

The most important piece of legislation currently in force when it comes to allergens in food is the Food Information for Consumers Regulation 2014. This is an EU ruling designed to help make sure that people who suffer from allergies can quickly, easily and reliably determine which foods are safe or not safe for them to eat. This is a critically important piece of law that was put in place to reduce serious illnesses and deaths that result from consuming allergens - it is a critical health matter. Failure to adhere to this legislation can in some case result in criminal prosecution, so it is very important that all relevant employees within the catering sector understand it.

The primary requirement for the Food Information for Consumers Regulation 2014 is that items containing any of the 14 primary allergens must be clearly labelled on pre-packaged food so that consumers know what they are purchasing. We will cover these 14 allergens in the final section of this article. There are also some specifics around the way products are labelled, such as the requirement for allergens to be clearly distinguished from normal ingredients. These specifications can be read in official documentation on the subject.

For further information around food allergies and the responsibilities that businesses within the food industry have in relation to them, check out our course on Food Allergy Awareness or look at our wider packages which include allergy awareness, HACCP and food hygiene courses.

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