Food Allergens

Each year, millions of people worldwide have allergic reactions to food. Although most food allergies cause relatively mild and minor symptoms, some food allergies can cause severe reactions, and may even be life-threatening. This is why it is mandatory that all food products are labelled correctly so consumers can make an informed decision.

What is an Allergen?

An allergen is a food that causes an allergy. An allergen will affect a person who has an allergy to it every time they eat it. Sometimes, only a tiny trace can trigger a reaction. There are around 160 food allergens.

The 8 allergens listed below are responsible for 90% of all allergic reactions to foods.

  • Egg
  • Milk
  • Peanut
  • Soy
  • Fish
  • Seafood
  • Wheat
  • Tree nuts

Egg and milk allergies are the most common food allergies among infants but are often outgrown. Shellfish allergy is more common among adults than children. Peanut allergy is equally common among children and adults.

Allergens on food labels

Allergens that must be declared on food labels in New Zealand and Australia are:

  • Cereals containing gluten and their products (wheat, rye, barley, oats)
  • Crustacea and crustacean products (crab, prawn, crayfish)
  • Egg and egg products
  • Fish and fish products (including shellfish)
  • Milk and milk products
  • Peanut and soybean (including their products)
  • Added sulphite (above a certain level)
  • Tree nuts and sesame seeds and their products.