The seeds from certain varieties of lupin plants may be eaten whole or crushed to manufacture lupin flour.
In mainland Europe, lupin flour has been used in food products for some time. Allergy to lupin is nothing new there, but is a growing concern in the UK and US where lupin use, and allergy, are on the rise.
As with other food allergies, reactions to lupin can be mild to severe, and it is increasingly clear that some people with peanut allergy react to lupin as well. Both foods are legumes and have a key allergen protein in common.
People with peanut allergy can be tested for a lupin reaction – an oral challenge being the only definitive test – or may simply choose to exercise caution and avoid foods containing lupin. Exercising caution means reading food labels for the ingredient lupin, lupine, lupin flour, lupin bean, or lupin seed.
Avoiding Lupin in the U.S.
Foods imported from mainland Europe frequently contain lupin, particularly bakery and pasta products including pies, pancakes, waffles, crepes, pizzas, deep-coated veggies (e.g., onion rings), items containing crumb, and pastry shells. Ground meats (e.g., hamburger, sausage) might also contain lupin.
Health food stores tend to offer more items containing lupin than traditional grocery stores, though a number of today’s gluten-free products – found in many grocery markets – use lupin flour. Some cosmetics contain lupin, and it is likely to be listed on the label in Latin, as lupinus.
People who react to lupin in food might also have a skin reaction to the seeds of the lupin garden flower. Though this is unlikely, those playing it safe may want to steer clear of these tall flowers with the colorful spikes.
Avoiding lupin when traveling in Europe is much the same as avoiding it in the U.S., but there are a few things it may help to know.
Avoiding Lupin In Europe
Fortunately, under European law that includes the UK, lupin is required to be declared and highlighted on the labels of pre-packaged food. The labeling law has provisions for catering or take-away food businesses as well.
According to the Anaphylaxis Campaign in the UK, when eating out or purchasing take-away food, the business is required to provide information about allergenic ingredients in writing and/or orally. If given orally, the business must have a readily visible sign indicating the info can be provided by a staff person. When requested, the oral information should be backed-up by something printed or in writing.
Food businesses in some European countries are expected to provide this information in writing only.
Though the law is clear, we all know things get lost in translation, and that some establishments will be more compliant than others. When dining out, it is important to:
- Question the catering or serving staff directly. Ask whether lupin is an ingredient in the food you want to order, or whether cross-contamination is a risk.
- Do not hesitate to have the waiter check with the chef.
- If language is a barrier, make sure lupin is included on your allergy translation cards.
Above all, wherever you roam, take your prescribed medication and auto-injector with you.