‘Emerging food allergen’ lupine increasingly regulated

Did you know that some food allergies are more common in certain parts of the world than others?

Lupine is one of those allergens that is a big concern in some countries, while consumers in other countries may not have even heard of it. It’s only recently gaining popularity as a high-protein, low-fat ingredient in a number of food products, and is still considered an “emerging” food allergen.

Lupine is a plant that produces lupin, a legume commonly used in Mediterranean cooking and sometimes appearing in Latin American cuisine. The beans are often ground into flour or are pickled and eaten as a snack. Allergies to lupine are more common in Mediterranean countries and Australia, and less so in North American and Western Europe. However, compared to other allergies, lupine allergies are fairly uncommon, with perhaps fewer than 1% of people affected.

That said, more people are being exposed to lupine as consumer tastes change. Because of that, beginning this year, Food Standards Australia New Zealand has made it mandatory that companies label food products containing lupine. In the European Union as well, lupine is one of the 14 regulated food allergens, so food containing it is required to be labeled. Lupine is not one of the “Big Eight” regulated allergens in the U.S.

If you have a peanut allergy, you may have allergic reactions to lupine as well, as both are members of the legume family. Cross-reactivity rates have been reported as high as 44%.

About allergies

When a lupine-allergic person ingests lupine, they have an allergic reaction. This means their immune system mistakes lupine protein for something harmful. In response, the body sends histamine and other chemicals to fight the perceived threat, which leads to symptoms like swelling, hives and rashes. In severe cases, respiratory difficulty is possible. A severe allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis includes symptoms of an allergic reaction plus a shock reaction — a drop in blood pressure and sometimes cardiac arrhythmia. If not promptly treated, it can be life-threatening.

Food allergies affect millions of people around the world — at least 15 million in the U.S., around four million in Australia, and approximately 17 million Europeans. Research shows that food allergies are increasing in prevalence, with a 50% rise in U.S. children between 1997 and 2011.

Neogen is a leader is food safety solutions and develops test kits to detect food allergens. For more information, see our website.

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