A FLINTSHIRE amateur chef has spoken about how important it is to be aware of food allergies.

In May, several organisations are raising awareness of food allergies which can be life-threatening.

Charlotte Seddon says the rise of "lockdown kitchens" has made the need for awareness more timely than ever.

In the UK, food businesses must provide information about the 14 major allergens - including milk, eggs and nuts, when they are used as ingredients in the food or drink.

But for home cooks, some thought is needed when preparing food for people with allergies as the consequences can be serious.

The Anaphylaxis Campaign says: Anaphylaxis (pronounced ana-fil-ax-is) is a severe and often sudden allergic reaction. It can occur when someone with allergies is exposed to something, they are allergic to (known as an allergen). Reactions usually begin within minutes and rapidly progress but can occur up to 2-3 hours later.

"Anaphylaxis is potentially life-threatening, and always requires an immediate emergency response."

It adds: "The common causes of anaphylaxis include foods such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, shellfish, fish, sesame seeds and kiwi fruit, although many other foods have also been known to trigger anaphylaxis. Some people can react to tiny amounts of food, although this rarely causes a very severe reaction. Non-food causes include wasp or bee stings, natural latex (rubber), and certain drugs such as penicillin. In some people exercise can trigger a severe reaction – either on its own or in combination with other factors such as food or drugs (for example, aspirin)."

Charlotte, who reached the semi-finals of MasterChef in 2020, is currently preparing to launch a home dining service, so food allergies are at the forefront of her planning.

She said: "Obviously food allergies can be so serious. You need to be careful as a cook because it’s a bit of minefield and every person is different. For example it’s not just the whole ingredients you are using that could be an issue but it can be the things they are cooked in. Some foods might not contain peanuts but they could of been cooked in peanut oil. But depending on the person and they type of peanut oil they could be ok.

"The rise of 'lockdown kitchens’ does raise your awareness to risks of selling products without going through the proper processes which is what I’m currently doing. I think it’s best to be safe than sorry check what allergies your customers have then err on the side of caution informing them of all the ingredients you may use. Working in insurance, I unfortunately see what happens when people make mistakes

"Normally people with severe allergies would know better than you what products they can and can’t have as they have had to live with it most of their life. If you are struggling to find a replacement ingredient I sometimes ask them and they know straight away. For example, I found the other day that mashed banana can make a great dairy free replacement for eggs in baking.

Food Allergy Awareness Week (May 9-15) and Allergy Awareness Week (May 24-31) aim to raise awareness of allergies by offering advice and support.