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Food intolerance

Food allergy should not be confused with food intolerance, which results from the body’s inability to effectively digest or process certain foods and is not therefore a response of the immune system. A common example is lactose intolerance, where a digestive enzyme in the small intestine is lacking. Symptoms of intolerance usually come on more slowly and are not likely to be life-threatening.



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Other food allergens

Why is food allergy increasing?

Getting help if you have a food allergy


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Food allergy – definition, prevalence and symptoms


Allergy occurs when the body’s immune system reacts adversely to a food or some other substance that is perceived as a threat. Common triggers include milk, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, shellfish and sesame. The components of the food causing the problems are proteins.



True food allergy is estimated to affect around two million people across the UK. Possibly a quarter of these – half a million people – are at risk of severe symptoms. This extreme form of allergy – whether triggered by food, latex, drugs, insect stings or other agents – is known as anaphylaxis.



Symptoms of food allergy usually come on rapidly – within minutes or even a few seconds of contact with the culprit food. They may start with an itchy mouth and progress to urticaria (hives) anywhere on the body, swelling of the facial tissues and abdominal symptoms.


In the most worrying cases there may be constriction in the throat, severe asthma or a dramatic fall in blood pressure (anaphylactic shock). Immediate medical treatment is vital.

Food Allergy Support is here to offer information, expert guidance and training to the food industry.

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