We have been asked to look into our crystal ball and foretell what food allergens might prove important in the future – in addition to those at present subject to mandatory labelling under EU law. Such predictions carry no certainty, but we have used our experience, based partly on discussions with clinicians, to produce the following list.
Kiwifruit: This may be high on the list of contenders for joining the “Big 14”. Kiwifruit was introduced into the UK just over 40 years ago. Reactions were seen in adults first of all; and in the 1990s more severe cases began to emerge, mainly among children. Kiwifruit allergy is becoming remarkably common.
Seeds: Sesame is already on the EU list, but other problem seeds include poppy, sunflower, pumpkin and pine nuts. Melon seeds – which are popular among West Indian people – also need to be watched. Chia seed extracts have now been approved by the UK’s Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes. There is potential cross-reactivity between chia and other seeds such as sesame, meaning that some people allergic to certain seeds will also react to chia.
Legumes: Green peas, chick peas, lentils and kidney beans should all remain on the radar. Allergy to multiple legumes is probably becoming more common among Asian children. Fenugreek, a legume used in curries, is also a potential problem. Because of possible cross-reactivity, some people with peanut allergy may react to fenugreek.
Fruits: There has already been one known death in the UK caused by banana and one possibly caused by tomato. Peach is a serious allergen in some Mediterranean areas. Reports in the UK suggest there has been a rise in cases of oral allergy syndrome (also known as pollen-food syndrome), which is caused by sensitivity to certain fresh fruits and vegetables. In the most common form, there is a localised swelling or itching in the lips, mouth tongue or throat after contact with the food. Fresh fruit or raw vegetables normally cause these symptoms. Reactions to the same foods when cooked are less likely. Most reactions are mild but people affected are advised to seek medical advice.
Buckwheat: Buckwheat is a major potent allergen in Japan, where labelling is mandatory and there have been reports in Europe and elsewhere of it triggering severe reactions. Children are commonly affected. So far it has not emerged as a major problem in the UK, but no doubt this is because its use is fairly uncommon. If its use were to increase, no doubt we would see more cases. Despite its name, buckwheat is not a true cereal as it is not a member of the grass family. It is related to sorrels, docks, bindweed and – oddly enough – rhubarb. Buckwheat flour can be used in making savoury pancakes. In France these are called galettes or crêpes de sarasin. Buckwheat is also used in several types of Japanese noodles. It is also found in Russian blinis.
- Please note that the above information reflects the experience of the Anaphylaxis Campaign, some of this being anecdotal. We would not expect food companies to make decisions based on this article.