Rule #1. Any food has the potential to cause an allergy, and therefore on one level, any food can be reasonably described as being an allergen.
But when it comes to EU food labelling laws, 14 foods / food groups are considered the allergens which specifically need to be highlighted on the ingredients of pre-packed food, and named on request when used in non-pre-packed foods and meals prepared in-house.
The 14 allergens are listed here.
I write this at a time during which, for sad reasons, the public discourse concerning food allergy and allergens has perhaps never been more passionate, but the confusion regarding which foods are allergens and which are not allergens persists widely.
I’ve seen endless arguments about what is and what is not a nut, or a seed, or both a nut AND a seed, or a legume, or — good grief — a drupe. I’ve seen food service providers berated for failing to highlight non-allergens such as pine nut — but highlighting non-allergens is breaking the regulations.
Rule #2. Botanical classifications and definitions are not relevant.
What’s relevant is not whether it’s a ground nut or a tree nut or a suspension bridge.
Rule #3. What’s relevant is whether or not it’s on the list of allergens.
These nuts / so-called nuts are on the list — macadamia, Brazil, pistachio, hazelnut, cashew, almond, walnut, pecan.
These nuts / so-called nuts are not on the list — shea, coconut, chestnut, pine nut / pine kernels, pili and others.
These seeds are on the list — mustard, sesame, celery seeds.
These seeds are not on the list — poppy, pumpkin, sunflower and others.
These legumes are on the list — peanut, lupin, soya.
These legumes are not on the list — pea, chickpea, carob, lentil and others.
It’s tough, I know, if you’re allergic to one or more not on the list, and I intend to write about pea and pine nut at a later date. You might find this article I wrote for Foods Matter useful.
In the US, there are 8 not 14 food allergens, but some of the nuts / so-called nuts not on the EU list, are on the US list. You might find my previous post here useful.