Training a team? Speak to us on 01943 885085
Last updated: 02.08.17

Symptoms and signs of food allergies

Those working with or serving food to members of the public must be aware of the different types of food allergies and how to recognise them.

Across the UK, there are thousands of people that suffer from allergies. Whether it be an intolerance to a specific food they’ve lived with since they were born, or a reaction that has developed over time, food allergies are serious.

In some cases, food allergies can trigger a reaction that can be life-threatening. This is why it is crucial for those working with or serving food to members of the public to be aware of the various types of food allergies and how to recognise them. Here we take a look at some of the symptoms and signs of a food allergy.


The severity of a food allergy varies from person to person, and while in some cases an allergy could be highly dangerous, in others it could be considered as more of an uncomfortable inconvenience.

Most of the time, food allergy symptoms develop within a few minutes to two hours of consuming the food. Symptoms can include:

  • Fainting, dizziness or feeling light-headed
  • Tingling or itching in the mount
  • Itching or eczema
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat
  • Difficulty breathing, nasal congestion or wheezing
  • Vomiting, nausea, diarrhea or abdominal pain
  • Anaphylaxis is when a certain type of food triggers a reaction that is severe. Here symptoms must be treated immediately or the person suffering could be at risk of a coma or death. Anaphylaxis can include constriction and tightening of airways, a rapid pulse rate, a swollen throat making it difficult to breathe, and shock with a severe drop in blood pressure.

    You should only be concerned about having a food allergy if you experience these symptoms shortly after eating. However, it is recommended that you visit your local GP if you develop any signs or symptoms of anaphylaxis.


    When working with food, it is important to be aware of cross-contact between different types of food, causing their proteins to mix. When this happens food contains amounts of other foods that cannot be seen but can still cause an allergic reaction among some people.

    Typically, in a food kitchen, food can become cross-contaminated. In order to prevent this, those working with food must be trained so that they know how to prepare an allergen-free meal.

    According to Fare (Food Allergy Research & Education), cross-contamination is often a factor and cause in foodborne illnesses. For example, microorganisms like bacteria and viruses from different sources can contaminate foods during the preparation and storage stage.

    However, the chances of a foodborne illness developing can be reduced or eliminated by properly cooking the food.

    Cross-contamination can also be reduced by washing all surfaces with soap and water. To be extra careful, food employers should consider purchasing cutting boards, plates and other kitchen utensils that are used only for allergy-free foods in a designated area.

    Awareness training

    Throughout the UK, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) have started to introduce new allergen labelling laws, while enforcing non-compliance through local council Environmental Health Officers.

    These means that all catering businesses and food service organisations will be required to provide allergy information on all unpackaged and pre-packed foods.

    Virtual College can provide food businesses and organisations with Food Allergy awareness training that will help learners identify the fourteen particular food allergens that by law, must be recognised.

    Related resources