Can you claim compensation for an allergic reaction to food?

There are many misconceptions regarding personal injury compensation and the type of claims you can pursue. For example, many people may not be aware, but you may be able to claim personal injury compensation if you suffer an allergic reaction to food. Of course, there would need to be a degree of negligence by a third party, but if this was proven, there is no reason why you should not receive compensation.

Ongoing increase in the number of allergic reactions

There is ongoing research to find out why we have seen a significant increase in the number of allergic reactions in recent years. There are two trains of thought. One, our obsession with germ-free environments has weakened our immune system. Two, we have seen significant changes in dietary habits in recent times. While it is unlikely there will be a “silver bullet” to solve this problem, any further information would be helpful.

It is also interesting to learn that the common trigger foods are different amongst children and adults. The more common triggers for children include:-

  • Peanuts
  • Milk
  • Soya
  • Eggs
  • Wheat

The more common triggers for adults include:-

  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Peanuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Almonds
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts

There is a temptation to suggest that those who have allergies to specific foods simply avoid them. If only it were that easy!

The legal position on food labelling

In September 2019, the UK government introduced what is commonly referred to as “Natasha’s law”. The name refers to a teenager who died after an allergic reaction to an unmarked ingredient in a pre-packed meal. From October 2021, food businesses will be legally obliged to include the following information on food packaging:-

  • Name of the food
  • Full ingredient list
  • All allergenic ingredients must be emphasised

We have seen less stringent regulations introduced recently, but “Natasha’s law” is a huge step forward. So, how does this protect consumers and what happens if food businesses fail to adhere to the regulations?

Negligence can be fatal

It is believed that around 20% of the UK population are affected by one or more allergies. While the vast majority of allergic reactions are relatively minor, unfortunately, some can prove fatal. The three main factors relating to allergic reactions include:-

  • Mislabelling of food
  • Incorrect information on a menu
  • Wrong advice given

You will notice that even before October 2021, food retailers have been obliged to display posters encouraging those with allergies to check before they buy. This has led to an increase in allergy training amongst employees, making them more aware of the dangers and their legal obligations.

It is important to note that while not all allergic reactions relate to food, it is by far and away the most common sector for allergies.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to food

It is essential to be aware of the symptoms relating to an allergic reaction. Many of those who suffer from food allergies will carry medication that can help avoid serious injuries if administered early. Some of the more common symptoms relating to food allergies include:-

  • Itchiness, red rash and hives
  • Facial swelling – particularly around the mouth and eyes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Gastric upset
  • Dry, red and cracked skin

Those who have eaten food to which they are allergic will typically be aware of the signs at a relatively early stage. Anaphylactic shock is the most dangerous allergic reaction, prompting your immune system to flood the body with chemicals in defence of an “attack”. These chemicals can cause a drop in blood pressure and a dangerous narrowing of the airways. Delays in treating anaphylactic shock could ultimately lead to death.

Gathering evidence for an allergic reaction claim

If you can directly link your allergic reaction to food acquired from a third party, you should be able to pursue an allergic reaction compensation claim. To prove negligence, you will need an array of evidence, including:-

  • Details of the incorrect labelling/incorrect advice
  • Eyewitness statements
  • Details of medical assistance required
  • Injuries received

It is also advisable to create a diary of events in the run-up to your allergic reaction and the aftermath. This can prove extremely valuable in demonstrating the impact that the injuries have had on your life.


Unfortunately, we can only estimate the number of allergic reaction compensation claims which have not been pursued. Many people automatically assume that allergies are something which they “have to live with”. This is not the case where third parties have been negligent regarding their food labelling, food menus or verbal advice. Even though the vast majority of allergic reactions are relatively minor, some can have a long-term impact on your life, while others can lead to death.

Recent regulatory changes, which go live from October 2021, will place a greater onus on food retailers to provide the correct labelling and advice. Failure to do so could lead to civil prosecution for compensation and criminal prosecution under the Food Safety Act 1990 if a customer suffers an allergic reaction to food.

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