By Erin Malawer
Have you heard of lupin? Don’t feel bad; most Americans haven’t heard of it either. But that’s likely to change.
What is lupin?
Lupin (or lupine) beans are legumes – putting them in the same plant family as the peanut. Lupin beans are high in antioxidants, dietary fiber and protein and low in starch. And like all legumes, they are gluten-free.
Lupin beans are commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine. Sometimes ground into flour and blended into regular wheat flour, lupin is also widely used in Europe and Australia. There, lupin is frequently found in baked goods and pastas as well as breads, sauces, beverages (such as beer) and meat-based products like sausage and hamburgers.
Lupin is showing up in the United States as well. It appears most often as a substitute for gluten or soy in free-from products as well as replacement for genetically modified ingredients and animal proteins (primarily dairy and egg).
Can you be allergic to lupin?
Although not one of the “Top 8” allergens, lupin is beginning to make headlines in the food allergy world. For many, eating products containing lupin is completely safe. However, for a few, lupin can trigger an allergic reaction. The odds of having a reaction are higher if you already have a peanut allergy. This is called cross-sensitivity.
There is no evidence that lupin allergy is more severe than other allergens. Like all allergic reactions, symptoms vary. Those who are allergic to lupin have reported reactions ranging from hives, swelling of the lips and face, to gastrointestinal and respiratory distress, and cardiovascular issues.
Do manufacturers label for lupin?
Due to the frequent use of lupin in European and Australian packaged goods, coupled with reports of allergic reaction, manufacturers in the European Union are required to label for lupin. But this requirement is voluntary in places like the United States, Canada, Australia and other parts of the world where you may find lupin listed among other ingredients without special emphasis. U.S. laws and regulations only require labeling to highlight the Top 8 allergens.
Those allergic to lupin or unsure should be careful of unlabeled, over-the-counter baked goods like pastries sold at a bakery, bread rolls served at a restaurant or beer at a local pub.
Other names for lupin are:
- Lupin Bean/Flour
- Lupine Bean/Flour
- Lupin Seed
While lupin is currently popular in Europe, its presence is increasing in the United States and elsewhere. As the demand for gluten-free and other free-from goods grows, so may the use of lupin.
If you are concerned you may be allergic to lupin, speak to your board-certified allergist to discuss level of risk, testing and prevention strategies. Avoiding the allergen is the only way to prevent an allergic reaction.
Erin Malawer is the founder of AllergyStrong, an organization dedicated to supporting low-income families living with food allergies. Read her blog at shmallergy.wordpress.com.