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Guide to Shopping with Food Allergies

Kirsty’s advice on shopping with food allergies

Getting diagnosed with a food allergy is life-changing. I sometimes felt quite overwhelmed when my son got diagnosed with multiple food allergies as a toddler.

This guide has been put together to give some useful advice on how to handle your first few shopping trips:



  • 14 major allergens must be listed or highlighted on all packaged foods.
  • These allergens are dairy, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, soya, gluten, fish, sesame, crustaceans, molluscs, lupin, sulphites, mustard, and celery.
  • Even if the ingredient used is unfamiliar, the actual allergen must be listed after it, e.g. Casein ( Milk), Bulgar (Wheat).
  •  Loose & non-packaged foods, like food in sandwich stores & in-store bakeries, don’t have to list allergens in full as long as the information is available.


‘May contain’ statements.

These are voluntary statements, so their absence doesn’t rule out cross-contamination:

These statements mean that even if you or your child have eaten a product before without reaction, it could be contaminated in the future.

So many foods carry these statements before many allergens can be airborne. So if an ingredient is handled in a factory, it could cause cross-contamination. It can be helpful to talk to the manufacturer to understand the level of risk.

Apps & Websites to help.

Here are a few tools to make checking products’ allergens & writing your shopping list a little easier:


Food Maestro App.

Developed in partnership with the NHS, this app allows you to set up allergy profiles for everyone in your family and scan product barcodes to detect ingredients you can’t have. You can also browse categories for products which are free of allergens. But, unfortunately, it can’t currently advise where to buy these products.


Spoon Guru App.

It allows you to scan product barcodes but seems to have fewer products in its database. Spoon Guru also has allergen-free recipes for you to try.

Website filters. 

MySupermarket: allows you to search for gluten & dairy-free products across multiple retailers, though not all products are picked up by its filters.

Ocado: Allows you to filter products by gluten-free, wheat-free, milk-free, egg-free, lactose-free and soya free, and select multiple allergens simultaneously. In our experience, these filters pick up the most relevant products.

Sainsbury’s: dedicated free-from sections, but a limited filter function, only nut-free & gluten-free covered.

Morrisons: Have a gluten-free filter and gluten-free, milk-free, lactose-free & dairy-free specific sections.

Tescos: Have free-from options in each menu and a filter for allergens when looking at a ‘shelf’. However, frustratingly this filter only allows one allergen to be selected at a time.

Asda: has a free-from menu easily listed on the front page but doesn’t currently have the function to filter products by the allergen.



Step by Step advice.

1: Pre-plan:

Pre-plan your weekly menu; this will help you focus on what you need and hopefully stop you from feeling overwhelmed.

Then use apps & website filters to help you build your shopping list, allowing you to go into the store with a clear action plan.

Until you build confidence, heading into the store allows you to check all product labels, whilst online shopping gives less control, as recipes may have changed.

2: Watch the Salts, Sugars & Saturated Fats:

Not all free-from foods are the same; whilst we strive to make our food as healthy as possible, some can be nutritionally poor.

3: Read every label every time:

Ensure you check the packaging every time you buy something, responsible manufacturers should highlight allergen changes on the front of the pack, but this isn’t always done.

Therefore, it is best to read the label when it goes in your shopping trolley and train everyone in the house to read the label before eating it.

Support Groups.     

Support groups can be so helpful in getting answers to questions and tips from people who are going through similar experiences. They can also be a great source of emotional support. Here are a few we know of:

  • CMPA (Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy) Facebook group: I’m a long-term member, and with over 32k members, this group is a great support & advice network. They help members throughout diagnosis, share experiences, and share news like new product launches.
  • Other groups on Facebook with big follower numbers are the Celiac Disease support group (22k members), Gluten free, Dairy free, Kids’ diet support (8.9k members) and Dairy & Soy free support (6.2k members).

Additional support resources can be found on Allergy UK and


This guide is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health professional.