Celery, mustard and sulphur dioxide: The surprising foods on the 14 top allergens list

There are actually 14 food allergens [Photo: Getty]
There are actually 14 food allergens [Photo: Getty]

The topic of food allergies has been dominating headlines of late thanks to the tragic death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, who died after eating a Pret a Manger baguette in 2016.

It is also believed there could have been a second death from an allergic reaction to a product bought from Pret a Manger. The person died in 2017 after eating a “super-veg rainbow flatbread” which was supposed to be dairy-free.

While allergies to dairy and nuts are well known, according to the UK’s Food Regulations 2014, there are 14 ingredients that businesses need to let customers know about if they are used in food.

Each could cause an allergic reaction to people who consume them.

The Food Standards Agency states that any food products that contain the 14 main ingredients likely to cause an allergic reaction must be labelled as such.

“The Food Information Regulation, which came into force in December 2014, introduced
a requirement that food businesses must provide information about the allergenic ingredients used in any food they sell or provide,” the Food.gov.uk website states

But it seems people are still confused about labelling and menus when eating out.

According to a survey by the Food Standards Agency, 60% of respondents with a food allergy reported they had avoided eating out in the last six months because of their condition.

And only 14% reported feeling extremely confident asking for allergen information when eating out or ordering a takeaway/food online. The same number admitted to feeling not at all confident

Following Natasha’s death, people have been calling on the government to tighten up the legislation surrounding food labelling.

A spokesperson for the Association of British Dieticians (BDA) told Yahoo UK that there should be no loopholes regarding the labelling of allergens, even for takeout or convenience foods.

“As has so sadly been proven by recent cases reported in the news, even small amounts of an allergen can have fatal consequences, so consumers need to have accurate information on what’s in their food,” the spokesperson explained.

Meanwhile allergy organisations have taken to social media to urge customers to tweet pictures of the best and worst practice allergen labelling.

“Just a reminder before we finish that @AllergyAction has suggested we all tweet pictures of best and worst practice allergen labelling in cafes – tweeting with #14allergens as hashtag. Start calling out those who fail and praising those who go the extra mile! #allergyhour,” Allergy Hour tweeted.

The 14 allergens required to be labelled on pre-packaged food or menus:


It isn’t just the stalks you have to watch out for, leaves, seeds and celeriac could also cause problems. “You can find celery in celery salt, salads, some meat products, soups and stock cubes,” Food.gov reveals.

Celery is one of the 14 food allergens [Photo: Getty]
Celery is one of the 14 food allergens [Photo: Getty]

Cereals containing gluten

These appear in a lot more places than just your breakfast cereal. According to Food.gov.uk wheat, rye, barley and oats is often found in foods containing flour, such as some types of baking powder, batter, breadcrumbs, bread, cakes, couscous, meat products, pasta, pastry, sauces, soups and fried foods which are dusted with flour.


Crabs, lobster, prawns and scampi are crustaceans. But you will also need to be aware of shrimp paste, which can often be used in curries or salads.


Again eggs are found in a lot more food stuffs than you might imagine. Those with an egg allergy will need to watch out for certain cakes, mayonnaise, mousses, pasta, certain sauces and foods brushed with an egg glaze.


Not just the fish itself, those allergic will need to check fish sauces, relishes, salad dressings, stock cubes and Worcestershire sauce.


Not heard of this? No us either. Lupin is a tall flower, the seeds of which are crushed to make lupin flour. This can be used much like any other flour, to make pastries, pancakes, pasta, pies and cakes.

According to anaphylaxis.org.uk, reaction to lupin allergy can include: swelling in the face, throat and/or mouth, difficulty breathing, severe asthma, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, so it is definitely worth watching out for.


Allergic to milk? The white stuff is also found in butter, cheese, cream, milk powders and yoghurt. It can also be found in foods brushed or glazed with milk and in powdered soups and sauces.

According to the NHS a milk allergy is one of the most common allergies for children, but most grow out of it by the time they start school.

For adults, it is rare – with one in every 200 adults estimated to have a cow’s milk allergy, says the Anaphylaxis Campaign charity.

Food allergens should be clearly labelled [Photo: Getty]
Food allergens should be clearly labelled [Photo: Getty]


According to Food.gov.uk molluscs include mussels, land snails, squid and whelks, but can also be found in oyster sauce or as an ingredient in fish stews.


Aside from powdered mustard and the jar variety, mustard can also be found in breads, curries, marinades, meat products, salad dressings, sauces and soups.


Many people group peanuts in this category but they are actually a legume, not a nut. This particular category of allergen refers to nuts which grow on trees such as cashews, almonds and hazelnuts. Those with a nut allergy will need to check breads, biscuits, crackers and desserts as well as nut oils and sauces.


Not actually a nut, peanuts are actually a legume and grow underground. Peanuts are often used as an ingredient in biscuits, cakes, curries, desserts, sauces eg satay sauce, groundnut oil and peanut flour.

Peanuts are actually legumes not nuts [Photo: Getty]
Peanuts are actually legumes not nuts [Photo: Getty]

Sesame seeds

Those little seeds sprinkled on hamburger buns can have pretty devastating effects for those who are allergic. The seeds can also be found on breadsticks, houmous, sesame oil and tahini. They can also be toasted and used as a salad garnish.


People often turn to soya if they have a dairy allergy but some are allergic to soya itself. Soya is a staple ingredient in oriental food so those with an allergy will need to be careful of bean curd, edamame beans, miso paste, textured soya protein, soya flour or tofu.

Sulphur dioxide (sometimes known as sulphites)

The lesser known allergen, this is actually an ingredient often used in dried fruit such as raisins, dried apricots and prunes. You might also find it in meat products, soft drinks, vegetables as well as in wine and beer.

According to Gov.food.uk those with asthma have a higher risk of developing a reaction to sulphur dioxide.

For more information, visit: food.gov.uk/allergy or nhs.uk/conditions/allergies

The BDA has a “Coping with food allergies” food fact sheet and an Allergies and Food Intolerances food fact sheet which provides information for those with food allergies.

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