Celery: a hidden allergen

You’d be forgiven for thinking that simple celery doesn’t have a massive impact on most of our lives.  A bit of a marmite vegetable, if you don’t like it, it’s easy to avoid, right?  Just skip the crudities and don’t order the celery soup!

However, celery is used in lots of dishes in various forms.  If you simply don’t like celery, you probably wouldn’t notice it was there, but if you’re allergic to celery the consequences can be serious.

Fortunately, celery allergy is one of the rarer food allergies in the UK, but it’s still significant enough to be one of the 14 allergens that are highlighted in allergen labelling on food products and menus.

The vegetable, celeriac, is also a type of celery and it’s likely that if you’re allergic to one you’ll also be allergic to the other.

How celery is used as an ingredient

Celery sticks and celeriac (a type of celery where the root is eaten) chopped and/or cooked are often used as salad ingredients or in sauces or casserole-type dishes.  But celery can also be present as an ingredient in the form of:

·      celery leaves

·      celery seeds

·      celery salt

·      celery juice

Foods and dishes that may contain celery or celery derivatives

You might be surprised at where celery can be hiding when not in its original form!  Foods to look out for include:

·      soups

·      batter

·      crisps

·      Marmite

·      smoothies

·      stock cubes

·      spice/seasoning mixes

·      pre-packed sandwiches

Celery allergy symptoms 

The symptoms of celery allergy vary in severity and, owing to its often ‘hidden’ nature as an ingredient, you may have had a reaction and not realised that celery was the cause.

Symptoms of celery allergy include:

·      a tingling sensation in your mouth

·      a rash or urticaria (hives)

·      swelling of the face or mouth

·      nausea and/or abdominal pain

·      difficulty breathing, wheezing or an asthma attack

·      in the most serious of cases, anaphylaxis

What you can do if you suspect that you have a celery allergy

If you think you have an allergy to celery, talk to your GP about allergy testing and they can refer you to a specialist allergy clinic.

Look out for celery as a highlighted allergen on ingredients labels when shopping.

When you’re eating out, make the management aware of your allergy and ask about the ingredients of the food on their menu.  Many pubs, cafes and restaurants now highlight food allergen information on their menus.  If the front-of-house staff are unsure about whether celery might be present, ask them to speak to the chef.

Food allergen labelling for businesses

Make 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.