2.4m UK adults suffer from food allergies

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

Around half of allergies develop during adulthood. Credit: Getty / Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd
Around half of allergies develop during adulthood. Credit: Getty / Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd

Related tags allergens

Approximately 6% of the UK adult population have a food allergy, according to new research by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The newly published Patterns and Prevalence of Adult Food Allergy (PAFA) report found that more than 30% of adults reported some sort of adverse reactions when eating a particular food.

However, once this was investigated further through a clinical assessment, it was estimated that around 6% of the UK adult population have a clinically confirmed food allergy. This translates to about 2.4m people.

The research also revealed that foods such as peanuts and tree nuts like hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds are most likely to cause an allergic reaction in a UK adult.

Meanwhile, many individuals suffer from allergies to fresh fruits such as apples, peaches and kiwi fruits. These were associated with allergies to birch pollen, also known as pollen-food allergy syndrome or oral allergy syndrome.

It was also discovered that while many childhood food allergies persist into adulthood, around half of allergies develop during adult life.

Finally, the FSA said that allergies to foods like milk, fish, shrimp and mussels were uncommon.

'Report provides vital insights'

Commenting on the findings, FSA chief scientific advisor Professor Robin May said: “The PAFA report is significant in helping us identify how food allergies evolve between childhood and adulthood, as well as providing vital insights into links between certain types of foods and the persistence of allergies into adulthood.

“Through this research, we can see patterns such as the emergence of plant-based allergies affecting more people into adulthood which is important for us to consider as we’ve seen the food system move towards plant-based diets and alternative proteins.

“The Food Standards Agency remains committed to ensuring that consumers have clear and accurate allergen labelling to support people in the UK living with a food allergy. This report will help guide our future work on allergens to ensure everyone can enjoy food that is safe.”

'Understandable fears around food safety'

Meanwhile, Mike Woods, CEO of inclusive celebration cake maker Just Love, said that the results of the FSA study show the importance for "brands to provide free-from products in today’s market".

"Although the industry has evolved tremendously, it’s still often very hard to find even free-from products that don't have many may contain claims,"​ added Woods.

"The rate of hospitalisations in the UK due to food anaphylaxis has also more than tripled over the last 20 years, causing an understandable fear around safety when it comes to food purchases. Because of this, brands and retailers have a life-or-death responsibility to ensure customers can find suitable products.

"This may sound dramatic, but for many it is the heart-breaking reality. As a family-run business who has witnessed first-hand the effects of severe allergies, Just Love feel passionately that there can, and should be, products available to be enjoyed by everyone."

Wood concluded by calling on food manufacturer to provide safe alternatives that also "cater to a wider audience".

"Just Love was created on the premise of ‘inclusivity’ to ensure those with a food allergy weren’t left out and we hope that brands and retailers continue to provide allergen-free choices for those who need it,"​ he said.

'Awareness of allergens is rising'

Lauren Harber, head of marketing at gluten-free bread manufacturer Genius Foods, highlighted the continued prevalence of undiagnosed allergies and intolerances.

"According to Coeliac UK, 1 in 100 people have Coeliac disease, only 36% of those are diagnosed at present,"​ continued Harber.

"As more people become in tune with their body and how it functions, joining the dots between their symptoms and the cause, awareness of allergens is rising.

"It is only right that those who must alter their diet to manage their allergies, can do so without compromise and with utter deliciousness. Our mission at Genius is to help more people to join the dots between their symptoms and cause for a better quality of life, enabling a life of symptom free deliciousness."

In other news, Kellanova has confirmed that its Kellogg’s cereal factory in Manchester will close towards the end of 2026​, resulting in the loss of 360 jobs.

Related topics Allergens

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