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Food Allergy and Food Intolerance

It’s very important for all caterers to be aware about food allergies and food intolerance and to take them seriously . They are both types of food sensitivity. When someone has a food allergy, their immune system reacts to a particular food as if it isn't safe. If someone has a severe food allergy, this can cause a life-threatening reaction. Food intolerance doesn’t involve the immune system and is generally not life-threatening. But if someone eats a food they are intolerant to, this could make them feel ill or affect their long-term health.

In the UK about ten people die every year from an allergic reaction to food and many more end up in hospital. In most cases, the food that causes the reaction is from a restaurant or takeaway. So if a customer with a food allergy asks you whether a dish contains a certain food, you should never guess the answer. Find out the information the customer wants and let them decide if they can eat the food.

In theory, any food could cause an allergic reaction in someone, but the twelve most common foods are:

These are the foods that can cause severe allergic reactions or to which people can have a food intolerance.

Typically with a food allergy, traces of the offending food rapidly lead to symptoms of generalised rash, itching, body swelling, breathing difficulties and even collapse. Adverse food reactions are of slower onset, do not involve the immune system and aren't usually life threatening. Reactions are usually dose related, with small amounts of the food being tolerated but larger amounts leading to reactions such as rashes, flushing, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and palpitations.

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