What is celery allergy?

Celery is that well known strong tasting vegetable, commonly thought to contain less calories than the energy used to consume it. Made up mostly of water, it’s amazing that this unassuming green food stuff is so widely used for its crunchy leafy stalks, root and seeds in food flavourings across the world. Celery is part of the carrot family, plants having flowers in umbels, also including parsley, anise, caraway and dill.

Celery allergy seems to be far more common in central Europe, mainly France, Switzerland and Germany, and less so in the UK and US, where peanut allergy is the most common. It is one of the small number of foods, the biggest being peanut, that appear to provoke the most severe allergic reactions; for people with celery allergy, exposure can cause potentially fatal anaphylactic shock.

Cooking celery does not destroy the proteins which cause the allergic reaction. Celery root, commonly eaten as celeriac, or put into drinks, is known to contain more allergen than the stalk, however the seeds contain the highest levels of allergen content. Dried celery or spice is also highly allergenic and likely to cause a reaction if a person is sensitive to raw celery. Exercise-induced anaphylaxis may be exacerbated and an allergic reaction can be triggered by eating foods that have been processed with machines that have previously processed celery, making avoiding such foods difficult. For this reason celery is noted on allergy labelling with as much importance as peanut.

Celery Hellery from People for the Awareness of Celery Allergy (PACA) Facebook page

Source: People for the Awareness of Celery Allergy (PACA) Facebook page

Allergy to celery seems to be linked to people with seasonal hay fever to birch and/or mugwort pollen (usually March/April). This is called cross-reaction and is often an important cause of food allergies.

Celery allergy due to cross-reactivity occurs at certain times of the year, i.e when the pollen of the wormwood plants and birch trees trigger celery allergy as they have similar cell structure to the celery plant.

Read Alex Gazzola’s interesting article, Oral Allergy Syndrome

From Bacon Wizard, Jasper Ackroyd on the Foods Matter website, celery also contains high levels of nitrate, even more than is found in bacon, so it is often used as a “flavour”, a great way for food manufacturers to get large amounts of nitrate into the recipe undetected and undeclared.

There are also phenols, or natural chemicals called apigenins in celery. Whilst these are thought to have good effects on the body for some people, it could be these that trigger allergic reactions to celery in others.

How to spot the symptoms of celery allergy

The first signs of an allergic reaction are usually a tingling and itching sensation of the mouth, lips, throat and tongue, a minute or two after eating celery. Symptoms including raised bumps and itching, can also spread to the face and eyelids; the skin rash, along with hives, swelling and eczema is another symptom.

Extreme swelling of the throat may cause constriction of the airways, which can result in breathing difficulties, asthma, sneezing, coughing and wheezing. The allergic reactions might also include vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and stomach cramping. In severe situations, patient suffer from anaphylaxis with various symptoms like rapid pulse, sudden drop in blood pressure, confusion, slurred speech and loss of consciousness. If not treated swiftly and correctly with adrenalin and hospital admission it may even result in death.

Which foods contain celery?

Celery can be hidden in many food stuffs, and not just the obvious salads, sandwiches and soups. It is often used in stocks, stock cubes and gravy, ready meals, sauces, crisp flavouring and spice mixes. It is often used in oriental cooking as a flavour enhancer. It is very difficult to avoid celery in restaurants as it’s not commonly listed in menu ingredients and can be found hidden in so many things.

Top 5 lifesaving celery free cupboard essentials

Look what we found free from soup

Look What We Found allergen free soup

  1. Celery free soup – There are a couple of brands of tinned soup that don’t contain celery. So far I’ve discovered the Free & Easy range, Suma and Look What We Found Pea and Ham soup. This latter is by far my favourite at the moment. It’s got big bits of ham in it and is almost as tasty as home made soup.
  2. The Free & Easy range includes Leek and Potato and Green pea.
    • Leak and Potato – Ingredients: water, potato 13%, leek 8%, red lentils, onions, sunflower oil, sea salt and pepper
    • Green pea – Ingredients: water, peas 24%, corn syrup, sunflower oil, sea salt, parsley, black pepper.

    Watch out though, their parsnip soup, though sometimes not labelled, does contain celery in the vegetable bouillon. Ingredients: Water, Parsnips (14%) Red Lentils (4.8%) Onions, Rice Flour, Sunflower Oil, Vegetable Bouillon (Sea Salt, Yeast Extract, Rice Flour, Palm Oil, Onion, Celery, Carrot, Parsley, Turmeric, Sea Salt). Sometimes this parsnip soup only says ‘vegetable bouillon’ on the ingredients and doesn’t list out the actual things in it.

  3. Look What We Found Pea and Ham soup ingredients:(NO LONGER AVAILABLE) – Water, Peas (33%), Onion, Gammon (6%), Potato, Vegetable Stock, Olive Oil, Garlic, Sea Salt, Black Pepper.
    I asked ‘Look what we found’ about the vegetable stock and they told me it contained the following: vegetable concentrates (carrot, onion, and leek), water, salt, spice.

    It’s just so tasty. Try it! I promise you won’t be disappointed. To find out more read a blog post dedicated just to this lovely soup, “Look what we found – gluten, dairy, celery and tomato free soup”

  4. Suma soups – More details on Suma soup ingredients to follow shortly… but they do a few that are tomato and celery free.
  5. Marigold celery free vegetable stock cubes

    Marigold celery free vegetable stock cubes

  6. Marigold celery free stock cubes – The only stock cubes I’ve found that don’t contain celery are Marigold Organic Swiss vegetable bouillon. These are great because they are gluten free (although they do contain maltodextrin), dairy free, soya free, yeast free and tomato free. Brilliant!

    Ingredients: sea salt, palm oil, vegetables 13.5% – (onion, carrot, parsley), maltodextrin, spices (mace, lovage, turmeric, bayleaf, pepper). These are really tasty but I often use two as they are not as strong as normal stock cubes.

  7. BEWARE: Some Marigold stock cubes DO contain celery. It’s just this green pack that don’t. I checked with the manufacturers and this is what they said: “There is no celery in the Green box yeast free gluten free Marigold Cubes. The other two cubes – Red box and Low Salt Purple box – do contain celery. Re cross contamination – our Swiss manufacturers clean their highly sophisticated machinery between production runs, so there is no cross contamination.”

    Free & Easy Gravy sauce mix

    Free&Easy vegetable gravy sauce mix

  8. Free&Easy celery free gravy sauce mix – Again, the only gravy granules sauce mix I’ve found that do not contain celery is Free & Easy Gluten Free vegetable gravy sauce mix. It’s also free from dairy, tomatoes, gluten, yeast…

    Ingredients: brown rice flour, cornstarch, hydrolysed vegetable protein, extract of roasted barley malt, powdered onion, sea salt and ground pepper.

    This product is guaranteed gluten free too.

Do you have a sensitivity to celery? I’ve had exercise induced anaphylaxis now on two occasions where I’m sure I didn’t consume dairy or nuts (my usual triggers) and now, having researched this food allergy I’m wondering whether on those occasions it could have been caused by celery. I can’t exactly confirm what time of year these reactions occurred but they could well have been during the birch pollen hay fever season. Since I found many references to it being linked to exercise induced anaphylaxis it’s a strong possibility as it’s hidden in so many things.

I’d love to hear from anyone else with this allergy, or anyone who has found any other brilliant celery free products.

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Although a celery allergy would seem unusual to many people, if you feel you’re experiencing the symptoms above it may be important to try and receive a diagnosis or treatment for allergy testing by visiting one of the local private hospitals in London.

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. http://www.whatallergy.com was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She also won the Foods You Can People's choice Best FreeFrom blogger award 2014.


  1. My son (12) reacts to ALL celery/carrot family items. He doesn’t have anaphylaxis but has major headache, seizure like and paranoid/hallucination episodes. Seems celery and paprika being the worst offenders. I am wondering if nightshades are involved too. We have not had allergy testing but don’t know if it would be beneficial at this point. Thank you for the article and everyone’s stories/responses.

    • Strange how certain foods can have this reaction for some people. Very frustrating but I’m glad you got to the bottom of it for your son – that reaction sounds horrible.

  2. “For this reason celery is noted on allergy labelling with as much importance as peanut.”

    Is this a joke or something? I’ve never once in my life seen celery listed among allergens. Companies are even allowed to conveniently hide it in “spices!” Don’t believe the crap that’s posted here. Read the WHOLE label.

    • Errr Dan… just in case you didn’t realise this is a UK blog. In the UK Celery is most definitely in the Top 14 allergens as it is across Europe. If you are based in the US then I think you may be far worse off as they don’t label it at all. I do take offense at your comment about ‘the crap that is posted here’, but I’ll let that go because I know how utterly rubbish having allergies is. I do agree about reading the whole label always as they are not always highlighted for easy spotting. Keep it polite in future please and you are more than welcome to comment.

    • Hi Dan,
      I DO believe the “crap” posted here and have to take into account that unfortunately the US doesn’t have the same rules for celery allergies as they do in the UK.

      I live in the US and I’m highly allergic to the parsley group which includes carrots, celery, dill, cilantro, coriander, and parsley (for starters).

      My partner shops for our food and reads and rereads every label. It’s a pain in the butt and it’s reality here in the US. I don’t eat anything which says *spice* or *beta-carotene* or *caramel color* sure signs that carrots and celery are lurking in my food.

      And still I discover the stray parsley group in my food. I now know by even more subtle signs than I noticed initially. My first sign is my rosacea goes haywire and I breakout with whiteheads on my nose and around my lips. Who ever knew my rosacea was caused by allergies to food? The next sign; I start to get a sty on my eyelid. Next my scalp breaks out in pimples. And last I get gastrointestinal problems.

      I wish the US would get labels for celery allergies. It would solve many of my skin issues.

  3. It’s a pretty serious allergen Mackie but I can undestand your confusion. I’ve no idea why but it’s one of the top 13 allergens that must be labelled on ingredients. Just read some of the comments above to see how much it can affect people and it also contains apiginens (sp!) which are thought to be at the root of the allergy issue.

  4. Yep…it is an allergen…I am living proof. Apparently, it’s the top allergen in Europe. Here in the states it’s peanuts. I believe that in Europe it is law to list celery as an ingredient. Here in the US it is most likely included in “natural flavors” and is seldom listed. The good news is I can eat foods where the celery has been highly processed, but if the ingredients list “celery” (or anything in the parsley family), my wife won’t let me touch it. Here’s a funny tip…any deli meat, including bacon, that says it’s not cured with nitrates is actually cured with celery powder WHICH IS HIGH IN NITRATES!. So be wary of “healthy” foods. That one always makes me laugh. I am always amazed at the products that say “no nitrates” that are cured with high nitrate celery. Who is kidding who?

  5. Yes celery is listed on everything – thank goodness. I have the allergy too and I’m in the UK. and yes, I’ve been caught with the hidden in meat thing – best to stay clear of most processed stuff with nitrates in it. Shouldn’t be allowed. Nitrates are nitrates. Just be honest! Cheating that’s what I call it. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Thanks for the tip on celery and nitrates. My son is highly allergic to celery. I have also found that restaurants will frequently use celery in pasta sauces so I always ask about that when we eat out.

  7. Wow am learning to live with this allergy. My attacks start off slow (Lip itching swelling ) and than am in the bathroom and hive city. One time so far had difficulty breathing but for now just taking the benadryl seems to help. But lately it seems to be happening more. So Didn’t know about lunch meet. Thank you for that tip and everyone else on here with their stories. Now I don’t feel weird lol. Wish in the states they would label better. Just found out gold fish have celery in the spice. At least they are listing it. Again thank you everyone and good luck.

  8. I was diagnosed as allergic to birch, alder, timothy, brome, dust, cats, dogs when I was in my mid thirties. As a teenager I went through allergy testing and came up negative. I should have asked for a second opinion. Celery was always a favourite of mine – didn’t care that it made my mouth tingle and go numb – thought it did that to everyone…
    Went for ‘desensitization’ shots after positive diagnosis. Was told I would be able to eat what ever I wanted after a year of treatment. Nothing got better. Went for a repeat test and new allergies showed up (for various plants). Total waste of time and money! In fact, I believe the shots made my allergies worse. I now cannot go near celery in any form. Seeds are the most potent for allergy inducing symptoms – so beware all forms of seasoning that may contain celery. It is VERY common in commercial mixed seasonings. All parts of the plant contain the allergy inducing protein, so it is not safe to eat the leaves, stalk or root (celeriac) in any form. Cooking does not destroy the protein. If you are allergic (not just sensitive) to celery do NOT substitute fennel in your recipes. It is related and can cause reactions.
    Pacific foods chicken broth is the only commercially prepared chicken stock that I will have in my house (Campbell’s does not contain celery, but is an inferior product taste-wise.)
    Eating out:
    Never eat soup that you did not prepare yourself; nine point nine times out of ten there will be celery in some form.
    Always ASK if there is celery in any form in the dish you are considering ordering. If the chef is unsure, pick something else. I have, on a few occasions (and mostly at Italian restaurants), had the chef offer to make something celery free just for me. Always appreciated – alway ask!
    Red sauces are almost never safe – not worth the risk.
    Most seasoning salts are full of celery, so rethink those spicy fries, cajun chicken, etc.
    I have been to one chain pub in Calgary that has its recipes in a binder with EVERY ingredient listed – wow! I wish all chains would do this. I understand it would not work for independent restaurants, but their chefs are almost always aware of all ingredients.
    Oh, and never assume because you’ve eaten there before it’s safe. This whole ‘rant’ started because reading this post/article reminded me you can never assume. My husband and I ordered a guilty pleasure (chicken-on-the-way) on the weekend. We have been eating from this family run establishment for thirty years. I commented on how flavourful the gravy was – yep, you guessed it.
    It was not a fun night. Lesson learned – again.
    Oh, and just to show that very few people are sympathetic to this allergy: My own father (upon learning of my allergy) said “So are you allergic to water?” Thanks Dad…

  9. Great advice – you are clearely a cereal (geddit, another allergy joke) celery avoider, as am I. It pops up everywhere, and even if a chef says he hasn’t used celery, they often use a stock prepared by another chef or member of staff and unless they record the ingredients for staff on later shifts they cannot know how it was made. I don’t think it’s understood enough how bad our reactions can be. Drives me mad but I rarely eat out and never risk soup or sauces or gravy. Don’t trust them. I make my own stock, save up 2 chicken carcasses and make batches to freeze. I have tried making in the slow cooker and it works really well, and avoids the problem or forgetting you put the pan on to simmer and boiling the stock dry – I’ve done that twice now much to my husbands annoyance… YOu cannot beat homemade stock. I also take a flask with my restaurants with my own gravy/soup. I speak to them before and most are more than happy for me to do this rather than risk getting somethign wrong and making me ill. Better to stay safe. Regarding comments I don’t think people really think before speaking. I continually get asked, “Can you eat these? Can you eat cheese? Can I use this packet colemans sauce mix? Can you eat yogurt? NO I AM STILL ALLERGIC TO X, Y, Z – IT HAS NOT CHANGED. MY ALLERGY HAS NOT DISAPPEARED… I CAN NEVER EAT DAIRY, NUTS, WHEAT, SOYA OR CELERY or the best one… what can you eat? dust? To which I must reply, no, I’m allergic to dust too! You have to laugh or you’d cry. Or “What can you eat? Fresh air?” Just lovely.

  10. Patricia says:

    I hear you Vicki, about your Dad’s comment.

    But notice if it was a peanut allergy. Suddenly you’re taken seriously. And celery allergy can be as deadly as peanut allergies.

  11. Hi Vicki,
    I tested positive for birch, trees, and grasses when I was in my early twenties. A severe reaction to a bee sting prompted the extensive testing. After desensitization shots, I no longer reacted to bee stings. In my fifties, a wasp stung me and I freaked out believing an anaphylatic reaction was just around the corner. Nothing happened. I applied Benadryl and there was absolutely no reaction, not even a raised area. Compared to my earlier reaction I was relieved.

    I no longer react to birch or grasses. However, I’ve got a problem after someone mows a lawn with the offending grass. It dissipates after the grass settles.

    I just recently discovered that cilantro is related to coriander. And coriander is in the parsley family. I’m allergic to all of the parsley family. Ugh!

    Hi Shawn,
    Look at cross allergens. You’ve got several families of vegetables and fruits.

    FYI: The family is called parsley or carrot family (If you think about it parsley family makes more sense. Anything which resembles parsley anywhere on the plant.) and that includes parsley (of course), celery, carrots, angelica, anise, caraway, celeriac, celery seed, celery leaf, chervil, coriander, cilantro, cumin, dill, dill seed, fennel, gotu kola, lovage, parsnip, and sweet cicely.

    Ever since I discovered I was allergic to parsley, I stopped eating this whole family of spices and foods.

  12. Thanks for the comment Moe and glad to hear you’re getting your head around a particularly nasty allergy. It does get easier. And I find that taking antihistamines early and sitting calmly rather than panicking and rushing around can mean the difference between a mild attack and something far worse. Depends how much allergen you consumed and how soon your body alerts you to it so you stop eating. Look out for those early signals and take swift action. Stay safe.


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