About Us Photo


Shining a light on hidden allergens

Many sources of allergens are fairly well known which makes them relatively easy to be aware of and avoid e.g. sources of gluten such as bread, pasta and anything flour-based. However, what about those foods which contain an allergen that you wouldn’t expect, or hadn’t given much thought to? We’ve compiled some tips that can help you as you adapt to a ‘free from’ lifestyle containing sources of allergens that are not immediately obvious. This is not an exhaustive list; always be cautious and carefully read the label.

Hidden allergens

Gluten: This can definitely be a tricky one to avoid. It manages to creep up in foods you probably didn’t expect to have to cut out if dealing with allergies or coeliac disease. These foods can include sauces and soups (flour is a common thickener); soy sauce; salad dressings; processed meats such as ham or sausages; chips and potato wedges (depending on the seasoning used); and beer. This will vary depending on the specific food product, and gluten-free alternatives are also becoming more widely available.

Dairy: Many dairy products are added to dishes to give them a creamier texture – be careful with foods such as mashed potatoes which commonly have milk, butter or cream added. Yoghurt is also a common addition to Greek and Indian foods so always check with staff if eating out as it may not be obvious. Pesto contains cheese (and nuts), so will need to be avoided.

Peanuts & Tree Nuts: Nuts are commonly used in many cuisines. Chinese cooking frequently uses groundnut oil (peanut), and other nuts, such as cashews, are also added to dishes. This is also the case for Thai and Indian dishes, so either prepare meals from scratch at home, read labels carefully, or ask for your meal to be prepared separately using clean utensils and cookware when out to avoid cross-contamination.

macaronsDespite their cookie-like appearance, macarons are made with almond flour (and eggs). Almond flour is also a common substitute for wheat flour as it is naturally gluten-free, so practice caution if you suffer from both gluten and nut allergies.


Soy, Sesame, Mustard, & Fish: These are also common ingredients in Asian cuisine: soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame and mustard seeds are all used extensively throughout.

Sulphites: These are found mainly in preserved foods, but also some dried fruits and wines.

Other surprising sources: As well as foods containing allergens they can also be found in everyday objects which we come into contact with. Cosmetics, such as lipsticks and lip balms, can be a problem if accidentally consumed (e.g. small amounts may rub off while eating and enter the body that way). They could also be on materials such as bed covers and clothing. The severity of the allergy will dictate how necessary it is to take precautions such as these, but it is important to be aware of all potential sources of allergens, particularly if you’re struggling to control symptoms.

The sheer amount of ingredients that contain allergens in addition to the cross-contamination that can occur in restaurants, due to commonly used ingredients such as nuts and flour, means that eating out can be a nightmare for people with allergies. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

If you are a customer, always inform staff of your allergies, ask about ingredients and if your meal can be prepared separately. If you work in a food business, all that’s needed is a training course with Food Freedom to leave you 100% ready to serve every single customer, including those with allergies. Get up to speed and ensure that you are delivering excellent service and food to your customers.

Tags: , , , , ,

Categorised in: