People are being urged to stop buying dairy and gluten-free foods unless they need them

People are being urged to not buy free-from items if they don't need them (Getty Images)
People are being urged to not buy free-from items if they don't need them (Getty Images)

Panic-buying spurred on by the coronavirus outbreak has caused stocks of staples like milk and bread to run low.

But one charity is urging people not to instead buy free-from foods - like dairy alternatives and gluten-free produce - unless they really need them.

With reports of items like oat milk and gluten-free bread selling out in supermarkets, Allergy UK are appealing for shoppers to be mindful of those who rely on such products.

It is all the more important given that approximately 20 per cent of the population are affected by at least one allergy.

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Being diagnosed with one means that there must be total avoidance of that allergen, or the sufferer risks a serious reaction which can sometimes prove fatal.

The charity have pointed to the story of a mother who recently contacted them after being able to find an alternative to cow’s milk for her child who has an allergy due to people bulk-buying at news of the pandemic.

Carla Jones, CEO of Allergy UK, said: “Of course we understand how anxious people are in the current circumstances.

“We are all living through unprecedented times with a high degree of uncertainty, but we are asking people to please consider the needs of a large group of people who do not have the luxury of choice.

Read more: The foods being ignored by UK coronavirus panic-buyers

“They need these food products and we are simply asking shoppers to be aware of these needs when they reach for a ‘Free From’ product when mainstream products are temporarily sold out.

“It is our responsibility to our community to highlight what we see as an unforeseen consequence of the bulk buying that has become such a feature of these times and to create an awareness that might prompt people to think again”.

The charity say they will be contacting leading supermarkets asking them to consider the needs of customers with food allergies in potential plans to review or reduce certain product lines at this time.

Jones added: “We will be asking supermarkets to take the needs of people living with food allergy into account in order to avoid the potential of our community being further disadvantaged in their ability to buy the food products they need.”

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Experts at Allergy UK have also confirmed that most allergic conditions are not included in the group of “underlying health conditions” that are a risk with COVID-19.

However, if you have asthma, are immunosupressed - due to taking steroids or other immunosuppressive tablets for severe asthma - or suffer from a rare condition, like severe atopic eczema, then you may still be vulnerable.

They explain: “The status of allergy as an ‘underlying condition’ is something on which Allergy UK is asking for further clarity from government agencies and will be reporting back on this as soon as possible.”