Food Allergy or Intolerance


A food allergy occurs when the immune system incorrectly responds to specific substances within foods known as allergens. The immune system recognises these allergens (mainly proteins) as a threat, antibodies are produced and a complex chain of events occur, culminating in the release of a substance called histamine. Reactions by the body to the release of histamine include itchiness, hives, skin rash and swelling. In its most severe form, a food allergy can cause a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis, in which blood pressure drops and breathing becomes restricted (INDI, 2016). Food intolerances, as distinct from food allergies, do not involve an immune system reaction, and thus have a lower health risk. However, individuals subject to food intolerances may experience a range of unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, stomach cramps and vomiting (Allergy UK, 2016).

In Ireland, recent studies suggest that 3% of adults and 5% of children suffer from a food allergy (INDI, 2016), with 1 in 50 children having a life-threatening nut allergy (Allergy Ireland, 2016). Across Europe, it is estimated that some 17+ million people suffer from food allergies (EAACI, 2013).  Whilst the number of individuals with food allergies appears to be increasing, there is no clear answer as to why. Amongst other possibilities, research studies have pointed to the influence of genetic factors, changes in food consumption patterns, environmental factors and food allergy exposure (Allergy UK, 2015).

For those suffering with a food allergy or intolerance, eating outside of the home can be difficult, particularly with respect to non-prepacked foods, where the presence of food allergens may not be obvious. For this reason, the EU has recently moved to enact legislation (EU 1169/2011) which obligates all food providers to clearly indicate the presence of a specified list of food allergens in all non-prepacked food sold for public consumption. 

Since 2008, healthpro has been helping food businesses and consumers alike with the process of allergen declaration and menu labelling. All businesses subscribed to our Menu Mentoring programme benefit from inclusion in our on-line Healthy Eating Guide, which facilitates consumers in selecting food outlets which cater for their allergen and indeed nutritional needs when eating outside of the home ( Comprising a diverse range of food outlets, from restaurants to hotels, bars to cafes, and delis to butchers, who have attained our dietetic seal of approval, the Healthy Eating Guide means meeting your individual requirements has never been easier - simply search by location, click on your specific allergen and/or nutritional  need/s, and view your options!


Allergy UK (2016) What is Food Intolerance? - Allergy UK. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Nov. 2016].

INDI (2016) Food Allergies and Intolerances [Online] Available at:,-allergies-and-medical-conditions/food-allergy-and-intolerance/383-food-allergies-and-intolerances-factsheet.html

EAACII (2013) Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Public Declaration [Online] Available at:

Allergy UK (2015). Why is Allergy Increasing? Available: Last accessed 15/11/2016.

Published on 23 November 2016 | Back to November Articles