What Are the 12 Food Allergens?

Medically Reviewed on 10/5/2022
12 Food Allergens
Generally, food allergens cause mild allergic reactions in people; however, in some cases, they can be life-threatening.

Food allergies are common in adults and children. These allergies occur when the body's immune system thinks that there is a foreign protein inside the body and launches a fight against it. The body’s immune system generally fights against infections, but in this case, it assumes food to be an invader and fights against it, resulting in allergies.

According to studies, there are more than 160 foods that are identified as allergic and should be consumed with care.

The FDA Congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 that identified eight foods as major food allergens:

  1. Milk
  2. Eggs
  3. Fish
  4. Crustacean shellfish
  5. Tree nuts
  6. Peanuts
  7. Wheat
  8. Soybeans

Common symptoms of food allergies

Generally, these allergies are mild, but in rare cases, these can be life-threatening or can cause complicated reactions in the body, resulting in permanent damage. Therefore, if someone has allergies to food, they can carry an emergency injectable, such as epinephrine.

Common symptoms include:

These allergens commonly cause an immune response to assume that or recognize the substance as foreign and try to fight against it. These allergies can develop at any stage but are generally seen in kids or young adults.

12 most common food allergens

  1. Milk:
    • Milk is considered the most common food substance that can cause allergies. Cow-milk allergies are often seen in babies in three to four percent population around the world. This reaction can be triggered by small amounts of milk from either the breastfeeding mother or through an external feeding of cow's milk.
    • Generally, babies grow out of this allergy into adults, but most of them who have these allergies in childhood will carry them into adulthood. The most common misconception is that lactose intolerance is an allergy, but it is not.
    • Symptoms are often mild, such as bloating and stomach upset. These are not usually life-threatening but can cause a condition called anaphylaxis.
    • In recent times, there are many food substitutes for cow's milk, such as almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, and even rice milk. People can have these substitutes without missing the beneficial nutrients in cow's milk.
  2. Peanuts or ground nuts:
    • Peanuts and peanut-containing products, such as peanut oil, can cause allergies. The most common allergies in North America are caused by peanuts.
    • The reaction caused by peanuts is sometimes life-threatening and can cause lifelong reactions or damage.
    • People who are sensitive to peanuts can be triggered by very tiny amounts, and it can be extremely severe for them. There are cases where it can cause anaphylaxis.
  3. Eggs:
    • Eggs are one of the most common allergens for children. Approximately, two to three percent of children are allergic to eggs. Children may sometimes outgrow their allergy to eggs as teenage. At times, very little amounts can cause allergies in sensitive children.
    • Common symptoms include skin rashes, hives, upset stomach, and, in some cases, diarrhea. Anaphylaxis is rare.
    • Eggs are nutrient hubs and have good amounts of protein. Their substitutes can be hard to find, but food sources having protein and vitamins can be combined as a substitute.
    • There are cases of children being allergic to egg whites but not to yolks and vice versa. Studies report that approximately 65 to 70 percent of children who are allergic to eggs can tolerate egg-containing foods, such as cakes and other baked foods.
  4. Shellfish:
    • This is one of the most common food allergens; a shellfish allergy is different from a fish allergy. Some people react to all types of shellfish, and some react to only certain types of shellfish. Therefore, people who show sensitivity toward shellfish should monitor their food intake. These allergies start within minutes or hours of having shellfish.
    • Common symptoms include hives, running nose, nose stiffness, or congestion. Itchiness and irritated skin are also symptoms of shellfish allergies. Allergies of shellfish can cause anaphylaxis; therefore, be very careful if your symptoms are comparable to those of anaphylaxis.
  5. Soy:
    • Allergies to soy are very less in percentage; overall, about 0.5 percent of children are allergic to soy. These are generally triggered by the usage of soy and soy-containing products, such as soybeans or soybean oil.
    • Avoid having soybeans, soybean oil, edamame, soy sauce, soy-based flour, soy-based milk, and soy-based yogurt.
    • Symptoms are less severe when compared with those of other food allergens, but be very careful while having the above soy products.
  6. Tree nuts:
    • Nuts are one of the food allergens that are most often linked to anaphylaxis. Less than 10 percent of people who have this allergy outgrow it in later stages of their life.
    • People often confuse it with peanut allergy. Both are different; peanuts are legumes and not nuts although they are often considered nuts.
    • Common symptoms include cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, itching in the mouth and throat, nasal congestion, and anaphylaxis. This is rare and can cause severe effects.
    • Tree nuts and tree nut oils are potential triggers for this allergy.
  7. Wheat:
    • Wheat is a common food allergen in most children, and almost a third of all children outgrow it by the age of 12 years. A wheat allergy occurs when you have products or foods that contain wheat. People often confuse it with celiac disease
    • Often the symptoms of wheat allergy are mild, causing swelling, itching, skin rashes, and breathing problems.
  8. Fish:
    • Shellfish allergy is different from a fish allergy. According to studies, fish allergy affects almost seven to eight percent of adults.
    • Generally, most allergies develop during childhood, but there are many cases where fish allergies developed in adults, making it much more complicated to handle.
    • Reactions to fish can cause life-threatening allergies, which can also lead to anaphylaxis.
    • Common symptoms include irritation of the throat, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  9. Corn:
    • Corn allergy is uncommon when compared with allergies to wheat, milk, and eggs. Corn allergy can occur after high exposure to corn or products containing high amounts of corn-derived substances, such as corn syrup, corn oil, or corn starch.
    • Common symptoms include vomiting, hives, itching or irritated skin, and nausea.
  10. Sesame seeds:
    • About 0.3 percent of children are allergic to sesame seeds or sesame products. Sesame allergy can have mild to moderate symptoms, such as hives, swelling of the tongue, skin rashes, and irritation of the throat.
  11. Mustard:
    • Mustard is a very serious allergen; commercial mustard is made from crushed mustard seeds and may act as a potential trigger to allergies.
    • Mustard is a common food allergen in many countries. Approximately one percent of children are allergic to mustard. It can cause facial stiffness, swollen lips and hives, itchy skin, and many other complications.
  12. Celery:
    • Most people don’t expect celery to be an allergen, but about six percent of the general population is allergic to celery. Most common symptoms include itching or mouth infections or irritation in the throat and nettle rash.


Common Allergies: Symptoms and Signs See Slideshow
Medically Reviewed on 10/5/2022
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