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

On Waitrose products, allergenic ingredients are highlighted in bold in the ingredients list on the back of the pack. Allergenic ingredients that will be in bold are:

  • Celery
  • Cereals containing gluten (wheat, barley, rye, oat, spelt)
  • 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. Where there is real risk for cross-contamination with any of the allergens listed above, you will see an additional statement on the packaging at the bottom of the ingredients list. We work with our suppliers to reduce the risk of cross-contamination through good manufacturing practice.


Useful links

Coeliac 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