Allergic to Christmas? Food allergies and the festive season

Christmas is the time to eat, drink and be merry!  But if you, or someone close to you, has a food allergy, knowing what’s safe to eat and drink can be a less than merry experience.

You’re in more control when buying in or making your own Christmas goodies, but need to be more vigilant when dining out or visiting friends or relatives who may be offering homemade dishes.

Seasonal recipes and treats can mean different ingredients are present in your usual favourites, so here are some things to look out for.


Nuts and nut oils and flavourings sneak their way into lots of Christmas fayre and are not always obvious, for example:

  • Christmas dinner: garnishes on vegetable dishes (like flaked almonds served with sprouts) and as an ingredient in stuffings or vegetarian or vegan main courses

  • Nut flavourings in festive ‘special edition’ drinks (like lattes and liqueurs).  According to the Anaphylaxis Campaign, due to their manufacturing process “there are no known reported cases of anaphylaxis or severe allergic reactions to nuts in distilled spirits” – however, if you’re unsure, stick to drinks that are nut-free

  • Christmas-themed cakes, puddings and mince pies often contain nuts

  • Sweet and savoury sauces: Christmassy versions can contain nuts

  • Chocolate: watch out for chocolate that’s not individually wrapped or that has become separated from its original box as it’ll be hard to check for allergen information


Milk is often used to increase the creaminess or richness of dishes, so can be a popular addition to Christmas recipes for:

  • Cakes and desserts

  • Liqueurs

  • Sauces and gravies

Dark chocolate may also be produced in factories that make milk chocolate


Eggs are a common ingredient in cakes and pastries – even as the glaze on sausage rolls – and can also be present in dishes like stuffings.  Vegan main courses and snacks are a safer choice if you’re in doubt.


Fortunately, most of the major supermarkets now offer gluten-free ranges that extend to gluten-free Christmas treats for the holiday season.  Christmas buffets can be tricky so you may want to bring your own snacks to be on the safe side.

  • Roast potatoes/parsnips etc may have been tossed in wheat flour to make them more crispy

  • Flour is often used in sauces and gravies

  • Check for gluten in sausages and pigs in blankets


Many of us will consume more alcohol over the festive period than at any other time in the year, so it’s especially important to stay allergen aware after a Christmas tipple or three!

  • Special Christmas editions of alcoholic drinks may contain flavourings such as nuts, spices, milk etc that they don’t normally have.  As we mentioned earlier, the risk of a reaction is reduced with alcohol processes, but if in doubt, leave it out

  • ‘Finings’ in some wines can contain egg, fish or milk

  • Check cocktail ingredients thoroughly, whether homemade or in a bar/restaurant

Make Christmas dining safer for your customers with Allergen Checker.  With Allergen Checker you can print your own company-branded labels and menus with clear, compliant food allergen information.  It’s budget-friendly, easy to use and you can even try before you buy with a free trial.