An allergy to a certain type of food is a medical condition. Food intolerance is more common, although usually
less severe.

What are food allergies and food intolerances?

There is an increased incidence of food allergies and food intolerances, but nobody is sure why. It could just be that we have access to more health and dietary information than ever before. There is also a trend towards self-diagnosis. If you are concerned that you may be allergic to or intolerant of a particular food, you should seek the advice of a doctor or a state-registered dietitian.

Food allergies

People with food allergies have an unusually sensitive immune system. Eating an allergy-causing food can cause their body's antibodies to go on the attack. The symptoms range from a light swelling and irritation in the mouth to a severe reaction, known as anaphylactic shock, which includes swelling of the throat and obstruction of the airway. The number of people who suffer from a severe allergy is small compared with those whose bodies simply do not tolerate a particular food very well.

Food intolerances

This is where the body has difficulty in digesting a particular food, although the reaction may not provoke the immune system. Food intolerances are not termed true allergies. They may produce symptoms, such as stomach pains, diarrhoea, constipation, headaches and rashes, which usually occur between a few minutes and a few hours after eating a particular food. A person with an intolerance may be able to eat small quantities of the food without it causing
a problem.

Food choices and diet

If you have a food intolerance or allergy it is important not to restrict your diet unnecessarily. If it becomes nutritionally unbalanced, it can cause more of a problem than the allergy or intolerance itself. Always consult a doctor or state-registered dietitian, so that the condition can be diagnosed and the nutrients from foods that must be avoided can be replaced.

Allergen labelling

Waitrose lists allergens on packaging on a panel under the list of ingredients. It shows any allergen - according to an internationally-agreed list - that it contains. The agreed list is as follows:

  • Celery
  • Cereals containing gluten
  • Crustacea, molluscs and shellfish
  • Egg
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Mustard
  • Peanuts
  • Sesame
  • Soya
  • Sulphur dioxide and sulphites
  • Tree nuts (such as almond, Brazil, cashew, macadamia, hazelnut, pecan, pistachio, walnut).

For some people, allergic reactions to certain foods can be severe. With a true allergy even a small amount of the allergen in a product may cause a reaction. With nuts for example, it is important to check whether a product was made in a place where nuts have been used. Where there is potential for cross-contamination with nuts and sesame seeds, we will state that there may be traces of these allergens in the product. We work with our suppliers to reduce the risk of cross-contamination through good manufacturing practice.

How can Waitrose help?

The Waitrose Nutrition Advice Service offers guidance on diet and healthy eating. We can supply information on the dietary values of all Waitrose own-label products, as well as regularly updated lists of foods free from common allergens. 'Free from' lists are available for the following:

  • Egg
  • Gluten
  • Milk/lactose
  • Nuts/peanuts
  • Sesame
  • Soya

Useful links

The National Osteoporosis Society (this link opens a new window)

Coeliac UK (this link opens a new window)

British Heart Foundation (this link opens a new window)

Diabetes UK (this link opens a new window)

The Anaphylaxis Campaign (this link opens a new window)

For more information

Nutrition Advice Service
Waitrose Limited
RG12 8YA
Tel: 0800 188884