top of page

Common food allergies & intolerances

A food allergy is the body’s response to a particular protein in a food or ingredient. The body mistakenly believes the offending protein, known as an allergen, is harmful and creates antibodies to attack it. Reactions can occur within minutes or up to a few hours after eating the food. 8 main foods have been identified as causing 90% of food allergies. International data identified the prevalence of food allergies increased by more than 50% between 1997 and 2011.


Peanut allergy is one of the most common allergies. You may be surprised to know peanuts do not come from a nut tree, they are part of the legume (beans, lentils, chickpeas etc.) family.


Allergic reactions to peanuts can be mild to severe from itchy skin, hives, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sudden drop in blood pressure and severe difficulty in breathing (known as anaphylaxis).

Watch out for

Sauces, cookies / biscuits, baked goods, Asian dishes and Mexican dishes. Also check labels to make sure a food hasn’t been prepared in a factory or kitchen where peanuts may be used in other foods (the risk of cross contamination can be high).


Tree nuts include walnuts, almonds, cashews, chestnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts and pine nuts. According to the American Centre for Disease Control the number of people with tree nut allergies tripled between 1997 and 2011.


Irritation of the mouth, throat and eyes, nausea, nasal congestion, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea and the more severe anaphylaxis.

Watch out for

Cereals, cookies / biscuits, energy bars, marinades, ice cream, chocolate, desserts, pastes, sauces, Asian dishes, African dishes and dressings.

Avoid foods that may be contaminated in a factory or kitchen that processes tree nuts or tree nut products.

Tree nut substitute

Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, flaxseeds).


Egg allergy is one of the most common allergies amongst young children. Most children will outgrow this allergy by the age of 16. Interestingly egg allergy is often associated with an increased risk of other allergies and asthma.


Hives (red itchy rash), swelling around the mouth, abdominal pains, vomiting and in severe cases anaphylaxis.

Watch out for

Mayonnaise, meringue, baked foods (cakes, biscuits, cookies, muffins, enriched breads), ice-cream, pasta, some meat-based dishes (e.g. meatloaf, sausages). Those allergic to chicken eggs will also need to avoid other eggs, such as duck,

quail or goose.


Cow’s milk is another common allergen in infants and young children.


Can range from mild (such as

hives and mild eczema) to severe


Watch out for

The obvious are: cheese, cottage cheese, cream, milk, custard, butter, and yoghurt.

Less obvious foods are: soups, sauces, baked foods, chocolate, sweets, all may also contain cow’s milk or cow’s milk products.

Cow’s milk substitute

Almond milk, rice milk, soy milk, coconut milk.


Lactose intolerance is not the same as an allergy to cow’s milk.

People with lactose intolerance are unable to digest the sugar in milk

(lactose) because they do not have enough lactose, the enzyme needed to digest lactose.


Abdominal cramps, bloating, diarrhoea, and abdominal gas.

Watch out for

Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt.

Can substitute with

Products made from rice, almond, coconut, soy.


People with wheat allergy need to avoid all wheat or wheat products. A wheat allergy is a reaction to proteins found in wheat. A wheat allergy is not the same as reacting to gluten. Gluten-containing grains such as rye and barley may not pose a problem for people with wheat allergy.


Hives, headaches, abdominal cramps, nausea and in severe cases anaphylaxis.

Watch out for

Bread, bread crumbs, pasta, flour

(all-purpose flour, high grade flour, whole wheat).

Unexpected foods that may contain wheat are baking mixes, baked goods, crackers, ice cream, soy sauce, bread goods, processed meats (sausages, patties), potato chips and salad dressing.

Wheat substitute

Rice, potato, buckwheat, millet, oats, corn, rye, and soy flours.


Coeliac disease (pronounced see-liac) is a genetic life-long chronic inflammatory disease, caused by ingesting gluten, and results in a variable combination of signs and symptoms. When people with the disease eat food containing gluten, their immune system activates a response to a substance called gliadin which is found in gluten. The resulting inflammation damages tiny finger-like projections in the small bowel, called villi, the function of which is to absorb nutrients from the food. People with coeliac disease are not following a fad – a strict life-long gluten free diet is the only treatment. If undiagnosed CD can present in different ways ranging from no symptoms to failure to thrive as a child, fatigue, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, headaches, reflux, bloating, weight loss or other significant medical complications – it also increases the risk of developing osteoporosis or other autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes or thyroid disease.

Find out more at


Soy beans are part of the legume family.


Can range from eczema, nausea, wheezing to anaphylaxis.

Watch out for

Soy or soy products which can be found in products such as soy sauce, tamari sauce, miso, natto, tofu and soy products (soy flour, soy cheese, soy milk, soy nuts, soy yoghurt). Other foods that may contain soy include cereals, baked goods, cookies / biscuits, processed meat (sausages), sauces, soups and some Asian cuisine (including Chinese, Indian, Thai).


Allergy to fish is usually life long and can start during childhood. Some of the common fish allergies reported are Cod, Flounder, Salmon, Snapper, Mackerel, Tuna, Tarakihi, Hapuka and Anchovies. Shellfish allergies are known to develop in adulthood. Shrimp, Lobster And Crab (all part of the crustacean group) are the most common shellfish allergies. Allergy New Zealand note that individuals with allergic reaction to one type of shellfish are likely to react to other members in the same group. Reaction to one group does not necessarily mean an allergy to another, but the advice to avoid all shellfish is given as there is a high risk of cross contamination with other seafood.


Fish allergy symptoms include; hives/rash, nausea, stomach cramps, indigestion and anaphylaxis. To prevent allergic reaction, all fish or fish products must be avoided. Some highly sensitive people may even have an allergic reaction if they are in areas where fish is being prepared or cooked as proteins maybe released into the air during the cooking process.

Shellfish allergy reactions range from vomiting, stomach cramps, indigestion, swelling of tongue and/or lips, dizziness to anaphylaxis.

Watch out for

As risk of cross contamination is high at seafood counters, people with allergy to one type of fish are advised to avoid all fish. Fish and shellfish can also be found in sauces, dressings, soups and stocks may contain fish or fish products.

Please note: the list of mentioned foods in each allergy are examples and not a complete list of food in that specific allergy. Individuals will need to consult with the GP or allergist to confirm foods that may cause allergic reactions.


Couldn’t Load Comments
It looks like there was a technical problem. Try reconnecting or refreshing the page.
bottom of page