We all know about gluten allergies, but did you know manufacturers of gluten free products could be substituting one allergen for another? There's something in your food that could be even more dangerous, even deadly for certain people. The U.S. government is so concerned about lupin, they are putting out a warning.
15-year-old Orion has had a peanut and tree nut allergy nearly all his life. His mom, Kelley Lindberg said, "When he was about 18 months old I gave him his first peanut butter and jelly sandwich and he immediately began to break out in kind of a hive around his face." But just as they were about to head to Europe, his mother was alerted to another potentially serious allergen called lupin. Orion was allergic to that, too. "I was not expecting to be going to Italy where he would be allergic to an ingredient in pasta and pizza," Lindberg said.
While lupin has been used in european products for years, now it's making its way to the United States as a flour alternative in gluten free foods. The problem is, many people don't know it is a legume from the same plant family as the peanut. Dr. David Stukus is with the Allergist, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and told us, "I'm a board certified allergist and immunologist and I wasn't aware of the allergenicity of lupin until recently. So, I think that most Americans and most people with other type of food allergy may not be aware of this." Stukus says the risk is very serious for some people. "There are case reports of people having severe life-threatening anaphylactic reactions to lupin. Both people who have a history of pre-existing peanut allergy and others who are eating peanut just fine."
Other symptoms of a lupin allergy include hives, swelling of the lips or face, GI distress, respiratory issues, even cardiovascular collapse. The food and drug administration recently put out a statement on its website and is currently monitoring complaints. "With the growth of the gluten free market , we're going to see more products with lupin in them coming into this country," according to Stefano Luccioli, Senior Medical Advisor with the FDA.
While in Europe, lupin is required to be listed on food products as a potential allergen, right now the us only requires that it be listed as an ingredient. Many are asking is it time for a change here? "It's a little early to think that lupin is a significant cause of allergen in the United States to actually put an allergy warning on there," according to Stukus. "However, people who have pre-existing food allergy, especially peanut allergy, should be aware to read labels." Orion's mom reads labels, but she is still concerned. "What worries me is that we will do it like Europe does and start blending it into regular flours, not just keeping it for a gluten free market but blending it into regular flours," Lindberg said.
We contacted the Grocery Manufacturers Association to get its take on whether brands should voluntarily call out lupin as a potential allergen on products. The association declined to comment, saying its views are in line with those of the FDA. The FDA wants to stress that for the majority of people, lupin is considered a safe and nutritious food. It's only a problem for those who are allergic. To read the full statement from the FDA regarding lupin, click here.