This is any clinically abnormal response that can be attributed to ingestion, contact or inhalation of a food or its derivatives. They can be:
- TOXIC is the adverse reaction that can occur in any individual due to a harmful substance in food. This is called poisoning and is due to pesticides, antibiotics, bacteria, parasites, to name a few.
- NON-TOXIC are Allergies, Intolerance and Celiac disease. These are reactions that only affect sensitive or predisposed individuals.
- ALLERGIES are adverse reactions of immunological origin to a food or a component. Antibodies attack the proteins in the food, releasing chemicals that cause itching, hives, vomiting, diarrhoea or respiratory fatigue, among others.
- INTOLERANCE is an adverse reaction in which there is no immunological reaction, and the symptoms are quite varied. It may be due to an enzyme deficiency such as lactose intolerance.
CELIAC DISEASE. This involves both immunological and non-immunological mechanisms and occurs in people who are sensitive to certain proteins present in wheat gluten and other cereals such as rye, barley and oats. When a celiac ingests these gluten-containing foods, antibodies react against him or her, triggering reactions that damage the villi of the stomach and cause discomfort, reactions and problems with nutrient absorption, pain, and other symptoms of discomfort. It is not an allergy, but rather a permanent intolerance to gluten. The patient recovers by excluding gluten from the diet.
Treatment of food allergy is strict avoidance of the food. Although it sounds simple, in many cases it is not, as it requires vigilance with regard to the composition and labelling of the products to be consumed. The exposure of hidden allergens in the composition of the increasingly processed foods we consume must be avoided.
Industry and catering professionals must be aware of the problem of adverse food reactions and must correctly inform consumers of the allergens present in the food through labelling.
ANNEX II lists the 14 allergens which must be declared, and which are responsible for 90% of allergic reactions and intolerance in the population.
* Grains containing gluten
* Crustaceans and crustacean products
* Eggs and egg products
* Fish and fish by-products
* Peanuts and products thereof
* Soybeans and derivatives
* Milk and dairy products
* Celery and derivatives
* Mustard and derivatives
* Sesame seeds
* Sulphur dioxide and sulphites
* Lupin beans and derivatives
* Molluscs and products thereof.
As voluntary information, the possible risk of unintended presence of an allergen can be included in the labelling in an unavoidable way with the phrase, “may contain traces of“.