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Eating out or choosing to try new foods are pleasures many of us take for granted, but for those with food allergies or coeliac disease it can be a minefield. With up to one in three adults and half of children affected by food allergy and as many as one in a hundred people with coeliac disease, it's a widespread issue that most of us will encounter either in ourselves or in friends and family at some point in our lives.

What is allergy?

A food allergy is the body trying to fight off a food that it has mistakenly identified as a 'threat'. In some people, this happens when they eat a certain food, and in others just touching or smelling a food they're allergic to could cause this reaction. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea, rashes, sneezing, wheezing, coughing or even anaphylaxis, a very severe reaction which can be life-threatening.

What is coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease is a life-long autoimmune disease caused by an intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, though some sufferers are also sensitive to oats. It specifically affects the digestive system, and causes symptoms ranging from bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, wind, constipation and tiredness, to headaches, mouth ulcers, weight loss, hair loss and anaemia.

How can we find out what's in our food?

EU legislation governing the labelling of allergens in both packaged and 'loose' food (such as you would be served at a restaurant) came into force in December 2014, meaning the fourteen top food allergens must be clearly identified where they may be found in a product. These include:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Soya
  • Crustaceans (such as prawns, lobster, crabs and crayfish)
  • Molluscs (such as mussels, clams, oysters, scallops, snails and squid)
  • Fish
  • Gluten
  • Peanuts
  • Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, Brazil nuts and Macadamia nuts)
  • Celery
  • Mustard
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sulphur dioxide and sulphites
  • Lupin

These regulations apply to all food producers, whether they work out of a huge factory or a home kitchen, or are a big fast food chain or a little village tea shop.

Where can I buy free-from food?

Fortunately, living with coeliac disease or allergy doesn't mean missing out. There are plenty of small producers and independent cafés and restaurants in Surrey that cater for coeliacs and allergy sufferers.


Anila's Authentic Sauces: Anila Vaghela's delicious sauces have won a Free-From Food award as they don't contain gluten, dairy or nuts. They're also made without onions or garlic in line with Hindu beliefs.

Good4U Gluten Free: Christina Wood bakes delicious gluten-free cakes, breads, tarts and biscuits that might otherwise be off-limits for coeliacs and the gluten intolerant.

TEA: This delightful tea room in the heart of Reigate stocks a range of Good4U Gluten Free's tasty treats, so no-one has to miss out on tea and cake.


Arnold's Organic Condiments: Simon and Karen Arnold's sauces are not only organic, vegetarian and vegan friendly, their Real Ketchup, Garlic Ketchup and Chilli Ketchup are all gluten-free and they also produce three Eggless Mayonnaises.

Tags: food allergy coeliac allergy