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Shopping for food when you have food allergies

shopping for food when you have food allergies

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Trying to accommodate food allergies in your weekly shop can be a nightmare if you’re not used to it. Where do you start?

Make use of Lists

Not your own shopping list, but those available from supermarkets. Deep inside most supermarket Head Offices is a department responsible for food allergy provision within the range of foods they sell. Most will be able to furnish you with a ‘Free From’ list, that will help you identify foods on their shelves that are free from the likes of:

  • Gluten
  • Soya
  • Wheat
  • Egg
  • Milk
  • Nuts

The list can be extensive, and if you are seeking to cater for a particular set of allergies in your shopping trolley the list can be invaluable. Familiarise yourself with it before you shop, and always scan the ingredients of anything you pick up to be sure it is indeed free from the things you are targeting.

Special Diet Ranges

Supermarkets love a niche market. It gives them chance to develop a whole new range of products to sell. As awareness of food allergies is on the rise, you will often find whole sections of supermarket aisles dedicated to certain dietary requirements, such as ‘gluten-free’ or soya-based products.

The Power of the App

The ingredients of many products can now be instantly available on your smartphone courtesy of an app. Scanning the barcode will bring up a list for you to peruse and you can instantly reject any item that contains the ingredients you are trying to avoid.

Know the Law

Shopping for food when you have food allergiesUnder EU Law there are 14 allergens that must be clearly labelled on all pre-packaged manufactured foods on our shelves. These are:

  • Milk, Egg, Wheat, Gluten and Soya
  • Sesame, Celery, Mustard
  • Fish, Crustaceans, Molluscs
  • Lupin, Sulphites
  • Tree nuts, Peanuts

The labels may be small, but they should be there.

Familiarise yourself with Labels

The first few shops you do under your new Allergy Rules may give you a headache, but over time you will become adept at recognising how the manufacturers use their labels. They are not obliged currently to label unintentional ingredients (such as ‘this product may contain traces of nuts‘) but many do. These voluntary labels, and all other information on any food product, are your friends as they offer the opportunity for risk aversion. As a rule:

  • Avoid foods that may contain traces of anything you may be allergic to
  • Always check the full ingredients list, and don’t rely on the specific allergen info only
  • Don’t risk a food that has no ingredients label
  • Check the food label every time you open a new packet, even if it’s a food you buy regularly – recipes can change

In 2014 there are plans to further update the law on food labelling, to add obligations in respect of unpackaged foods such as deli or bakery items.



About Cally Worden

About Cally Worden

Seasoned freelance writer Cally Worden lives with her family and dog in a quiet corner of rural France. A love of the outdoors, and a fascination with her children's ability to view life with fresh eyes provide the inspiration for much of her work. Cally writes regularly for various websites and UK print publications on subjects as diverse as parenting, travel, lifestyle, and business, and anything that makes her smile.

Website: Cally Worden

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