A food allergy is a specific kind of intolerance to a food or to one of its components that activates the immune system.
An allergen causes a series of chain reactions in the immune system, including the production of antibodies, leading to a segregation of chemicals like histamine, which can cause various symptoms such as irritation, a runny nose, a cough and so on. In short, an allergy is an exaggerated immune response by the organism when it comes into contact with a food allergen.
The European Food Safety Authority’s Scientific Committee recognises the most common allergens: milk, eggs, shellfish, nuts, fish and wheat and other cereals.
Unlike allergies, food intolerance affects the body’s metabolism rather than the immune system and means an inability to eat certain foods without suffering adverse effects on health. It may involve symptoms similar to those of an allergy. Food intolerance appears when the body cannot digest a food or one of its components properly.
The most common intolerances are to lactose and gluten. And it is precisely these that most affect us at breakfast time. In the Mediterranean diet, a good breakfast includes: dairy products, biscuits, cereals and fresh fruit (whole, chopped or in the form of juice).
EUFIC – European Food Information Council
GENCAT.ES – Agència Catalana de Seguretat Alimentària.