Believe it or not, your bird feed, pet food, or even alternative diet may be an allergy trigger if you’re allergic to shellfish or dust mites.

Dutch researchers have found a possible link between the larvae and allergens that cause reactions for some allergy sufferers. The study was conducted by the University Medical Centre Utrecht and TNO, a food distributor in the Netherlands. They are continuing their research in a follow-up study.

Mealworm shells may trigger allergic reaction

Mealworms are a common replacement for beef and pork in some European foods as a healthier alternative. They are similar in taste, provide just as much (or more) protein, and are more environmentally friendly than free range beef or pigs, according to the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization.

The initial study, however, found that the shells of mealworms, which are usually ground with them when making food products, may have the same substance thought to trigger allergies in those with shellfish and dustmite sensitivity. The follow-up study will involve human subjects eating small amounts of mealworms to test the theory and will begin soon.

The new study, which is being conducted separately by the national food safety authority in the Netherlands and several university labs, will attempt to substantiate a causal relationship between the mealworms and reactions. Results from this study are expected next year.

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