Science & Technology in Action

16th Edition

Food hypersensitivity

Food Safety Authority of Ireland

Biology
Food hypersensitivity is the umbrella term used to describe food allergies and food intolerances that affect a small but significant number of people all over the world. Food allergies involve an excessive immune response to a specific antigen. A food intolerance is typically not mediated by the immune system but may, for example, be caused by an enzyme deficiency.

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The full lessons along with a supporting toolkit are available in three different formats, A4, A3 and as a Powerpoint deck.

Lesson excerpt

Food hypersensitivity

The vast majority of people are able to consume foods and beverages of choice without undue concern over their safety. However, a small but significant proportion of the population have to pay particular attention to the ingredients in all foods and beverages they consume, even inadvertently, because of the risk of serious health consequences. While many food types can cause food allergies or intolerances, only a relatively small number are responsible for the more common food allergies and intolerances. Food hypersensitivity is the umbrella term used to describe food allergies and food intolerances that affect a small but significant number of people all over the world.

Allergy

An allergy is a condition caused by an excessive immune response in susceptible people who inhale, ingest or otherwise come into contact with particular substances (allergens). For example, hay fever is the result of an immune response to exposure to certain plant pollen grains. Some people suffer hyper-immune reactions to bee stings, animal dander, dust, skin contact with latex gloves or as a result of the administration of antibiotics or anaesthetics.

Food allergies

Food allergies are a significant food safety concern because everybody requires nutrition and ensuring that a non-allergenic food has not come into contact with an allergenic food can be difficult. Busy kitchens or factories producing different types of food are not sterile environments and despite having procedures and processes in place, it can be difficult to prevent cross-contact with certain regularly used food allergens like milk or egg.

True or False?

  1. Most people do not suffer from a food allergy. true
  2. A food intolerance is the same as an allergy. false
  3. Prepacked foods that display a list of ingredients must highlight all of the 14 regulated allergens they contain. true
  4. Many children will outgrow their allergy to milk or eggs. true
  5. Coeliac disease is a sensitivity to gluten – a protein found in many cereals and cereal products. true
  6. Lactose intolerance is an allergy. true
  7. Allergic reactions are always caused by food. false
  8. A chronic condition is one that lasts for just a short time. false
  9. In certain individuals, anaphylaxis can be caused by minute traces of particular allergens – even as dust. true
  10. Peanuts are the leading cause of food-related anaphylaxis, accounting for over 50% of all cases. true
  11. It is estimated that food allergies and intolerances occur in between 3% and 4 % of the European population. true