Study the modules and pass the tests to get a continuing professional development (CPD) certificate. This training has been developed by the Agency for enforcement officers. However, it might also be of interest to food business operators, those involved in selling or producing food or anyone wanting to learn more about food allergies.

Step 1: Study the modulesThere are six modules to study, each with a test. These modules cover

  • Module 1: current and incoming rules and legislation
  • Module 2: the effects that allergies have in the body
  • Module 3: considerations of allergies in the factory
  • Module 4: how allergenic ingredients should be displayed on the label
  • Module 5: identifying allergens in example of dishes in the restaurant
  • Module 6: how food businesses should be providing consumers with allergen information
    about the non-prepacked food they serve

Step 2: Register and complete the tests Once you have registered and are logged into the site you will be able to access the tests, either by clicking on the banner at the bottom of each module page, or via your CPD dashboard.

Find out about food sensitivities

More and more people are avoiding foods for many different reasons.

Food businesses preparing food and selling it to the public may be asked by their customers about:

  • ingredients in foods that are on sale
  • possible contamination from other dishes or products during preparation and service

Examples of why people avoid foods

  • They are allergic or intolerant to a particular ingredient or food
  • They want to make healthier food choices
  • For health reasons (for example they could have a medical condition such as diabetes, high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure)
  • For religious reasons (for example they may want to observe dietary laws such as kosher, halal, Hindu or Sikh vegetarian)
  • For moral or ethical reasons (for example they may prefer Fairtrade, organic, vegetarian or vegan)
  • Personal choice or preference

Food sensitivities

Some people have a reproducible food sensitivity such as a food intolerance, food allergy or coeliac disease.

Coeliac disease

Coeliac disease is not an allergy. It is an auto-immune disease, which means that the body produces antibodies that attack its own tissues. For people with coeliac disease this attack is triggered by gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Some people with coeliac disease also react to oats. Symptoms of coeliac disease can range from mild to severe and can include: bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, wind, tiredness, constipation, anaemia, mouth ulcers, headaches, weight loss, hair loss, skin problems, short stature, depression, infertility, recurrent miscarriages and joint/bone pain.

Some symptoms might be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or wheat intolerance, while others might be related to stress or getting older. As a consequence, it can take some time before an accurate diagnosis is sought, or made. After diagnosis and starting a gluten-free diet these symptoms typically cease.

You can get more information at

Food intolerance

  • A food intolerance is more common than food allergy and could affect one in five people.
  • It doesn’t involve the same immune system mechanism as food allergy.
  • There are consistent symptoms after eating particular foods.
  • Symptoms typically include gastro-intestinal upset.

Lactose intolerance

  • Lactose can be found in milk and other dairy products.
  • Lactose intolerance is particularly common in people with Chinese and African-Caribbean backgrounds.

Food allergies

Some people need to avoid certain foods because they are allergic to them.

  • Food allergies involve specific antibodies, mainly Immunoglobin E (IgE), in the immune system. For each food, the body manufactures a specific antibody.
  • Immunoglobin E antibodies are designed to recognise and attack disease-causing substances such as pathogens and parasitic worms.
  • Allergic (atopic) people have immune systems that are programmed to treat ordinary proteins from foods and other things as if they are a threat (for example cats, dogs, horses, insect stings, pollen etc.).
  • IgE is a two-stage process. The first stage of IgE mediated food allergy is sensitisation when the body recognises a particular substance as harmful but no symptoms are experienced. The second stage is where symptoms occur.

Food allergy symptoms

Mild to moderate symptoms may include:

  • a swollen throat or lips
  • difficulty in swallowing or speaking
  • coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath
  • alterations in heart rate
  • skin rash and/or itchy skin
  • abdominal cramps, bloating, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting
  • sore, red and/or itchy eyes
  • runny or blocked nose
  • dry, itchy throat and tongue

If these develop, severe symptoms might involve:

  • difficulties with breathing, including asthmatic symptoms
  • a sudden feeling of weakness (a drop in blood pressure)
  • a sense of impending doom
  • collapse
  • unconciousness

If the symptoms are severe enough food allergy can be fatal.

For more information on food allergy symptoms see the ‘In the body’ section.

Food allergy facts

Here are some key facts about food allergy:

  • People suffering severe reactions need emergency expert help from a trained paramedic, usually with injectable adrenaline.
  • In the UK, about ten people die every year from food-induced anaphylaxis.
  • There are also about 1,500 asthma deaths, some of which might be triggered by food allergy.
  • For those at greatest risk, the tiniest trace of food allergen can trigger severe symptoms and, in some cases, cause fatal or near-fatal symptoms.
  • Many of those who die or suffer ‘near miss’ reactions had no idea that they were at risk. Those who are aware of the risk can find the day-to-day unpredictability of living with food allergy risks stressful.
  • Teenagers and young adults seem to be at particular risk of severe reactions.
  • Many people with a food allergy also have asthma, which can make food reactions more severe if it’s not controlled by regular medication.

Which foods can cause allergy?

  • In Europe, food allergens are monitored and assessed by clinical and scientific experts through the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). They advise on which foods need to be labelled on pre-packed foods.
  • Annex II of the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation No.1169/2011 lists 14 food allergens that must always be labelled in pre-packed and non-prepacked foods.
  • Foods that need to be labelled on pre-packed foods when used as ingredients are:
    • Cereals containing gluten, namely: wheat (such as spelt and Khorasan wheat), rye, barley, oats
    • Crustaceans for example prawns, crabs, lobster, crayfish
    • Eggs
    • Fish
    • Peanuts
    • Soybeans
    • Milk
    • Nuts; namely almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, macadamia (or Queensland) nuts
    • Celery (including celeriac)
    • Mustard
    • Sesame
    • Sulphur dioxide/sulphites, where added and at a level above 10mg/kg in the finished product. This can be used as a preservative in dried fruit
    • Lupin which includes lupin seeds and flour and can be found in types of bread, pastries and pasta
    • Molluscs like clams, mussels, whelks, oysters, snails and squid

For more information on identifying where the above allergens may be used in food see our ‘In the restaurant’ section.

Find out more

Anaphylaxis Campaign Catering website

European Food Safety Authority website

Allergy catering guidance

Advice on food allergen labelling (Download this pdf, 0.34mb)

FSA Safer Food Better Business packs – section on food allergies (Download this pdf, 0.17mb)