What is Lupin?
Lupin (sometimes called “lupine") is a legume belonging to the same plant family as peanuts. “For many people, eating lupin or a lupin-derived ingredient, such as a flour, is safe,” says Stefano Luccioli, M.D., a senior medical advisor at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “But there are reports in the medical literature of allergic reactions to lupin, some of which can be severe.”
Reactions can include anaphylaxis (a severe response to an allergen that can include shock), which is life-threatening and can occur very quickly. Allergens are substances, such as lupin, that can cause allergic reactions.
As with most food allergens, people can develop an allergy to lupin over time. However, for people who have an existing legume allergy, eating lupin could cause an allergic reaction on first exposure. Studies show that people who are allergic to peanuts, in particular, appear to have a greater chance of being allergic to lupin. “While many parents know to look for and avoid peanut ingredients in the diet of their peanut-allergic child, they may have no idea what lupin is or whether it is an ingredient that could cause their child harm,” Luccioli says.
Although lupin is a food staple for many Europeans—who may be more aware of its allergenic properties and are accustomed to seeing it listed as a food ingredient—it is relatively new to the U.S. market. Some Americans may not have heard of this legume, which can be found in the form of lupini beans at Italian and other ethnic specialty stores, as well as in packaged food products.
But lupin is likely to become more popular, especially because lupin-derived ingredients are good substitutes for gluten-containing flours and are frequently being used in gluten-free products.
“We’re seeing more gluten-free products on the grocery aisles these days,” Luccioli says, and increasingly, consumers are more aware of gluten and are buying these products. Therefore, it’s increasingly important that they recognize that lupin is a potential allergen.
The law requires that food labels list the product’s ingredients. When lupin is present in a food, it is therefore required to be listed on the label. So, consumers wishing to avoid lupin — and those with peanut allergies, who need to be particularly careful — can identify its presence by looking for “lupin” or “lupine” on the label.
What should you do if you believe you are having an allergic reaction caused by lupin or a lupin-derived ingredient? (Symptoms of a possible allergic reaction include hives, swelling of the lips, vomiting and breathing difficulties). “Stop eating the product and seek immediate medical care or advice,” Luccioli says.
FDA is actively monitoring complaints of lupin allergies by U.S. consumers, he adds. You or your health care professional can help by reporting lupin-related adverse events (possible reactions from eating it) to FDA in the following ways:
- By phone at 240-402-2405
- By email at CAERS@cfsan.fda.gov
- By mail at: FDA, CAERS, HFS-700, 2A-012/CPK1, 5100 Paint Branch Parkway, College Park, MD 20740
This article appears on FDA's Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.
August 15, 2014