A food allergy occurs when the body's immune system reacts to specific foods which have been consumed. The immune system reacts to proteins in food if they consider them to be harmful and creates an allergic reaction almost immediately. The symptoms of a food allergy can be very uncomfortable and require immediate medical attention. Therefore, it is important to understand the different food allergies which exist and how to deal with these.
Common Food Allergies
- Dairy products: Milk, Cheese, Butter, Yoghurt, Ice Cream, Cream.
- Tree Nuts: Almonds, Cashews, Pistachios, Pine Nuts.
- Shellfish: Shrimp, Prawns, Lobster, Squid, Scallops.
If you suspect that you might have a food allergy, you must make an appointment with your GP for them to correctly diagnose you and advise you how to control this food allergy moving forward. You might suspect that you have a food allergy if you experience some of the following symptoms after consuming a particular food:
Symptoms of Food Allergies
- Anaphylaxis: This develops suddenly and can become severe very quickly. It involves difficulty breathing, an increased heartbeat, clammy skin and sometimes causes you to collapse
- Swelling of the tongue, mouth or face
- Itching of the lips
- Redness of the skin
- Itching and swelling of the throat
- Breathing difficulty
- Itchy rash
- Low blood pressure
If you experience any of the above symptoms you must seek medical attention immediately. Your GP will send you to an allergy clinic for testing if they suspect that you have had an allergic reaction. You could be given a skin-prick test or a blood test to find out if you are allergic to a particular food.
How to treat an allergic reaction
Antihistamines: This is used to treat mild allergic reactions. Antihistamine comes in the form of a tablet and blocks the effects of histamine in the body, to reduce your allergy symptoms.
Adrenaline: This is used to treat severe allergic reactions and comes in the form of an EpiPen. You will have an auto-injector of adrenaline to use in emergencies, which will narrow the blood vessels to help ease breathing. You must then call an ambulance to attend to the scene.
In June 2019, the plans to introduce a new law called Natasha's Law were established to provide further protection to allergy sufferers. Natasha Ednan-Laperouse sadly died after suffering an allergic reaction to sesame, which was in an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette bought from Pret a Manger at Heathrow Airport. Natasha had an anaphylactic shock shortly after consuming the baguette during a flight to Nice in July 2016.
Natasha's law has been driven by her parents and aims to ensure that all pre-packaged food clearly shows allergens to ensure that consumers know exactly what they are eating. The Secretary of State announced that the Government will drive this legislation through to ensure full allergens and ingredients are clearly stated on the labels of pre-packaged food. It is planned that Natasha's law will come into place in Summer 2021, but businesses will be allowed a two-year implementation period to adapt to the changes.
Therefore, recent legislation which aims to protect consumers with food allergies is a positive step for the food industry.