Food Service Advice: The most common foods to cause allergies

If you need to cater for a guest with an allergy it is important that you know where the allergen is most likely to be found. Here is a list compiled by the experts at Unilever Food of the most common allergens, what types of foods you will find them in and tips on finding alternatives.

Tree Nuts

These include almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pistachios, pine nuts, macadamia nuts and chestnuts. These can be found in sauces, desserts, crackers, bread, ice cream, marzipan, ground almonds and nut oil. 

TIP: See Peanuts


Found in sauces, cakes, desserts, groundnut oil, peanut flour and peanut butter.

TIP: Make sure you have an indemnity on your menu if you use nuts in your kitchen.


Cow’s Milk

Found in yoghurt, cream, cheese, butter, milk powders, foods glazed with milk

TIP: If a recipe allows, substitute milk with water or soy milk. In sweet recipes,substitute milk with fruit juice. Note that guests allergic to milk may also be allergic to soy. 

Crustacean or Shellfish 

Such as shrimp, prawns, crab, lobster, crayfish and shrimp paste.

TIP: When required, replace shellfish with  a smoked fish that has a strong flavour. 


Can be found in tofu or beancurd, soya flour and textured soya protein. Also in some ice cream, sauces, desserts, meat products and vegetarian products

TIP: Use rice flour and canola oil for baked goods. 


Found in cakes, mousses, sauces, pasta, quiche, some meat products, mayonnaise and in foods brushed with egg

TIP: Substitutes vary by dish. For baking try mashed banana. For savoury dishes crumbled Tofu works quite well.



Found in some salad dressings, pizzas, relishes, fish sauce and some soy and Worcestershire sauces

TIP: Use mayonnaise as a base for dressings and use your own ingredients to create flavours.




In foods containing flour, such as bread, pasta, cakes, pastry, meat products, sauces, soups, batter, stock cubes, breadcrumbs and foods dusted with flour

TIP: Those with a wheat allergy can usually eat rice flour, buckwheat flour, cornflour and maize flour.


What is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose intolerance occurs in individuals who lack the enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest the sugar lactose (found in milk). Common symptoms are diarrhoea, wind and general discomfort.

Can eat…
Soy milk, rice milk, dairy free cheeses such as soy cheese, soy yoghurt (note: soy is also an allergen).

Can’t eat…
Cow’s, Sheep, and Goat’s (mammals) milk, some cheeses, dairy desserts, ice cream, butter, cheese, and yoghurt.

What is Gluten intolerance?

Gluten intolerance is caused by the body’s inability to break down gluten, a protein in wheat. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease. Those with Celiac disease must eliminate gluten from their diet.

Can eat…
Rice flour, buckwheat, cornflour, maize flour, flours from nuts/beans/seeds chickpeas, quinoa, and soya.

Can’t eat…

Gluten-containing flours, including: Wheat, Rye, Oat, Malt and Couscous

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