Food allergies and intolerances

If you think you have a food allergy or intolerance, it is important to see your doctor.

Food allergy and food intolerance are types of food sensitivities, both can make you feel very ill. 

Food allergy

A food allergy this means your immune system reacts to a particular food and causes immediate symptoms.

Symptoms can include:

  • itchiness
  • rash
  • swelling

Sometimes this reaction can be so severe that it can trigger a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. For more information on anaphylaxis, see the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand website.

Food intolerance

A food intolerance does not involve the immune system. Instead food intolerance is actually an adverse reaction to a particular food. 

The symptoms can be unpleasant and in some cases severe but are generally not life-threatening.

Common food allergens

The eight most common food allergens are:

  • crustaceans
  • eggs
  • fish
  • milk
  • peanuts
  • soybeans
  • tree nuts
  • sesame seeds.

Food labelling

All food businesses must declare the eight most common food allergens, either on a food package label, a sign or if a consumer asks about ingredients of an unpackaged food.

Gluten (from wheat, rye, barley, oats and their products) and sulphites (which are added to food as a preservative) are required by law to be declared on food labels.

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