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Allergy or intolerance?

Food allergy and food intolerance are both types of food sensitivity and both can make you feel very ill, but there are important differences.

If you have a food allergy this means your immune system reacts to a particular food and causes immediate symptoms, such as itchiness, rash and swelling. Sometimes this reaction can be so severe that it can trigger a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.

Food intolerance however doesn’t involve the immune system. Instead, food intolerance is actually an adverse reaction to a particular food.

The symptoms can be unpleasant and in some cases severe but are generally not life-threatening.

Food intolerance is even more common than food allergy. Up to 25% of the population believe they have some sort of food intolerance.


Food allergy = an immune system reaction to a food
Food intolerance = an inability to digest a food.

Changes to allergen labelling 

New requirements for labelling the most common allergens in food commenced on 25 February 2021. 

The changes to the Food Standards Code will help people find allergen information on food labels more quickly and easily, so they can make informed and safe food choices. 

For more information see Changes to allergen labelling