A very helpful overview of food allergies –

In theory, any food can cause a food allergy. But in fact just a handful of foods are to blame for 90% of allergic reactions to food. These common foods are known as the ‘big eight’. They are:



peanuts (groundnuts)

nuts from trees (including Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts)


shellfish (including mussels, crab and shrimps)



In children, most allergic reactions to food are to milk, peanuts, nuts from trees, eggs, soya and wheat. Most children grow out of most allergic reactions to food in early childhood. In adults, most allergic reactions are to peanuts, nuts, fish, shellfish, citrus fruit and wheat.

This section mainly describes foods that can cause food allergy, but it also includes lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance/sensitivity (coeliac disease). These are types of food intolerance, but they aren’t allergies. Remember, if you think you have a food intolerance, you should contact your GP.

Cereal allergy

A number of cereals have been reported to cause allergic reactions in sensitive children and adults. These include wheat, rye, barley, oats, maize (corn) and rice. Sometimes people can react to more than one type of cereal.

Coconut allergy

Allergy to coconut is rare in the UK, but coconut can cause allergic reactions (including anaphylaxis) in people who are sensitive.

A small number of people who are allergic to nuts have reacted to coconut. It might also cause reactions in people who are allergic to latex.

Coeliac disease

Gluten is the mixture of proteins found in some cereals, including wheat, rye and barley. Gluten intolerance, or coeliac disease, is a lifelong disease, which is caused by sensitivity to gluten. It can damage the lining of the small intestine, which stops the body from absorbing nutrients, causing diarrhoea and eventually malnutrition. Coeliac disease can sometimes run in families, but we don’t know exactly what causes it.

Until recently, coeliac disease was only thought to affect about one in 1500 people in the UK. Now we think it’s more common, and better tests for the condition have shown that it might affect as many as one in 300 people in the UK. In some areas of the world it seems to be more common, for example in parts of Ireland as many as one in 100 people may be affected.

Coeliac disease is often diagnosed after weaning, when cereals are introduced into the diet, but it can also be diagnosed at a later age. Research suggests that waiting until a baby is about four to six months old before starting to give them wheat makes it less likely that they will develop coeliac disease.

If it isn’t treated, coeliac disease can lead to anaemia, bone disease and, on rare occasions, certain forms of cancer. It can also cause growth problems in children.

People with some medical conditions might be more likely to develop coeliac disease, for example Type 1 diabetes, thyroid problems, ulcerative colitis and certain neurological disorders, such as epilepsy.

There is no cure for coeliac disease. The only way to avoid the symptoms is not to eat foods containing gluten, such as wheat, rye, barley, malt, malt extract, malt flavouring, beer and lager. Processed food can often contain hidden gluten, but a large number of gluten-free products, such as bread, cakes and pasta are now available. Coeliac UK, a charity to support people with gluten intolerance, works with manufacturers to produce a regularly updated list of foods that don’t contain gluten. Read more about coeliac disease.

Click Common Food Allergies to read the full article.