Celery allergy

Celery is one of the 'big 14' food allergens, which must always be labelled in the EU, and likewise celeriac - the root of a celery-like plant.

I've seen people, including a chef, question celery allergy's incidence and its potential to be a threat, but it is undoubtedly a potent allergen, capable of triggering anaphylaxis. Although thought to be rare in the UK, it may be under-recognised and under-diagnosed, and is a particular problem in central Europe - the main reason for it being on the 14 allergen list.

It is often linked to hay fever. If you react to mugwort or birch pollens, you may react to celery (and plenty of other raw fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs and nuts). Curiously, the term birch-mugwort-celery syndrome has been coined to describe this particular manifestation. Unlike many other examples of reactive botanicals in OAS, celery (along with nuts) tends to retain its allergy-triggering potential even when cooked.

Foods with Celery
Barring the obvious - any salad, especially mixed green salad, but also Waldorf salad - celery is found in a number of dishes and products.

Many Italian sauces (especially northern Italian) start life with a 'sofritto' - a fried base of chopped carrots, onion, and celery - so check with Italian restaurants and ditto any prepared tomato-based pasta sauces. It's essentially the same as the French 'mirepoix' - do likewise in French restaurants. It is popular in Cajun cooking too. Remember, as a key allergen, all eateries are obliged to declare its presence.

It is in a lot of soups, sauces, sauce and stock mixes, stock cubes, bouillon, many condiments, spice mixes, seed mixes (celery seeds), ready meals, vegetable juices and so on. Common products with celery include Heinz Tomato Ketchup and Marmite. Celery salt is used in a Bloody Mary.

Foods Free From Celery
These have been checked celery-free by ingredients at the time of writing, but always double check with manufacturers or with the label before consuming.

For a Marmite alternative, which happen also to be gluten-free, try Meridian Yeast Extract (left) or Essential Vitam-R Yeast Extract.

For a celery-free stock cube, try Marigold Organic Swiss Vegetable Bouillon cubes, (green box, yeast-free and gluten-free) which Ruth at the What Allergy blog has assured her readers is safe. (Other Marigold stock products do contain celery, so beware.)

For a celery-free tomato ketchup, try Whole Earth Organic Tomato Ketchup, Biona Organic Ketchup, or Meridian Organic Tomato Ketchup.

For a vegetable gravy, try Free & Easy's Gluten Free Gravy Sauce Mix.

For a tinned soup, Amy's Kitchen Organic Hearty French Country Vegetable soup appears free of all 14 allergens, and for a ready-to-eat packet soup, the Ilumi range of soups seem celery-free.

Further Resources:
Anaphylaxis UK's Celery Allergy: The Facts.
The University of Manchester's InformAll's Celery/Celeriac Allergy Page
What Allergy?'s What is Celery Allergy?
Oral Allergy Sundrome.