What is lupin allergy?

Lupins are quite common in most English gardens, recognisable for their tall, elegant stems with many tiny clustered and tightly curled flowers.

They are related to the legume family e.g. peanuts, peas, lentils and beans. The seeds from some types of lupin can be used in foods such as seeded bread and can also be ground to make lupin flour, which is used sometimes in foods such as pastries.

In the UK, Lupin allergy is still quite rare, but in the rest of Europe Lupin Flour is used quite widely in bread, cakes and pastries; cases of Lupin allergy in mainland Europe are far more widely recognised than in the UK and can cause very severe reactions such as anaphylaxis. There have been very few confirmed reports of lupin allergy in the UK so far and due the relationship with the legume family there is a risk that people who react to Lupin may also react to peanuts, peas etc.

Food labelling rules require pre-packed food sold in the UK or the rest of the European Union (EU) to show clearly on the label if it contains lupin (or if one of its ingredients contains it).

Because lupin flour is used more widely in mainland Europe, people who are allergic to peanuts or lupin should be especially careful when staying in other European countries or eating pastries etc. brought back from there.

Foods Matter have an interesting article about Lupin allergy, The hidden menace of Lupin Flour. You can also visit the Lupin index on the Foods Matter for research reports, foods free from Lupin flour and a funny cartoon here.

If you suspect that you may have an allergy to Lupin, the only real way of finding out for sure is by cutting out the food you suspect of causing the reaction, which you know to contain Lupin, for a month or two and then trying a small amount again. You can test it by rubbing a small amount on your lip or skin to see if that causes a reaction. If you are worried you could have a real life threatening allergy you should ask your doctor to refer you for skin prick tests.

This could cause you some difficulty as you’ll be asked to bring along a sample of the food you wish to have tested. Most UK allergy clinics and hospitals wont have Lupin flour in their stock of allergens to use for testing so you may need to get hold of some, as a friend of mine discovered recently when she had similar tests done. My clever friend Jane managed to track down some Lupin Flour from an Australian company’s website, “Wheat Free World” at: www.wheatfreeworld.com.au. Lola Workman of “Wheat Free World” kindly sent my friend a small bag of Lupin flour to use for testing, she was confirmed with a severe Lupin allergy as her arm swelled up a treat, and the hospital purchased the flour from her for their stocks, so it was a win win situation all round.

Jane discovered she had a problem when becoming nauseous and very unwell after eating a fresh baked seeded honey loaf from the supermarket. After much research into the ingredients (The German manufacturers were very helpful, even supplying a bag of their flour mix) and eliminating them one by one, she began to suspect it could be Lupin. It wasn’t an easy journey to finally have confirmation of the allergy but dedicated perseverance and a shipment from Australia later and she has the answer.

Special thanks to my friend Jane for the inspiration for this blog post and good luck avoiding this hidden little nasty. Does anyone else out there have Lupin allergy? How did you discover it? It’s pretty rare so far in the UK so there won’t be many of you. If you have peanut allergy, like I do also, should we be avoiding Lupin too? Perhaps people with peanut allergy should be tested also for the rest of the legume family to be on the safe side – at the moment this isn’t happening, especially since this is a little known allergy on these shores.

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. http://www.whatallergy.com was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She runs a support group for the Anaphylaxis Campaign and also writes regularly for Exchange, The National Eczema Society quarterly magazine.

Comments

  1. I just found this blog on the Goodness Direct blog. 5 Facts about Lupin Allergy. If you’re interested in this allergy you might find this useful: http://blog.goodnessdirect.co.uk/2009/03/04/5-facts-about-lupin-allergy/

  2. hello, I have just been diagnosed with Lupin flour/seed allergy by the hospital – the allergy specialist was very sceptical when I told him that’s what I thought it was as he’d never come across this allergy before. I had my first (and I hope last) anaphylactic shock in December after eating a goats cheese tart at a conference. I suspected lupin flour as this was the only ingredient in the ingredients list that I didn’t recognise or eat regularly. I’m not allergic to any other foods, but have new respect for people that are and manage their condition.

    Like your friend I couldn’t find any food with lupin flour in it but the hospital were able to do a RAST test which came back with a score of 4 – severely allergic.

    The only other time I’d had a reaction was a few years ago when eating a crepe from a french stall (in England) – my face blew up but I took antihistamines and that controlled the reaction.

    I now carry an epi pen and am very careful about what I eat – but am really glad to have had a proper diagnosis so hopefully I can avoid the risk in future. I’m going on holiday to France this year so will be extra careful!

    • Glad you’ve found a diagnosis and good luck in France. I’ve just come back from hols in Portugal and lots of things were labelled as containing Lupin, or free from. I’d steer well clear of any baked goods in cake shops. Bit of a shame in France as they do bake amazing cakes and treats but better to stay safe.

    • lynda Lane says:

      my son has had life long allergies, eczema and asthma. He rarely can keep a meal inside him without a fairly swift visit to the loo.
      When there was not the availability or encouragement to have allergy tests under the NHS, i took him to an alternative practitioner, and he came up with so many sensitivities, allergies, life looked grim for him.
      Now a young adult, he has been rushed to hospital so many times because his throat closes up, and his top pallette drops. Very alarming!
      After referral to a very on-the-ball doctor at the hospital, she immediately said he was short of vitamin D, which proved correct. After the arm being subject to multiple allergens, he came up in huge hives, started to feel asthmatic etc, and the main antagonist was LUPIN which we’d never heard of.
      My son is now to see a dietician, is on vit D, and after twenty four years we may be able to see him have the help he should have had years ago.

      • I need to take vitamin D too and have lots of allergies, though not to lupin, thankfully. Good luck with the diagnosis and I hope your son manages to work out what he’s allergic to and find a stress free, reaction free, healthy diet.

  3. I have just been told this morning that I have to avoid all products containing lupin, because I have a severe peanut allergy, which means I don’t even have to eat peanuts to react. I was rather shocked when I found out that this ingredient could also be another possible allergy for me. What I would like to know is why people with relating allergies haven’t been told previously about this potential threat. I would rather be unsure whether I have this allergy or not, to not knowing at all and possibly having any type of reaction. I found this very interesting and useful about what it is used for though, so thanks!

    • Hi Becky. Yes you’re right, it’s a bit of a grey area, and one that I’ve only just discovered years and years after discovering I had a peanut allergy. I think the link has only recently been made between the legume family and Lupin allergy, since we export baked goods and travel more extensively all the time. I think now people are told of the link, and that they should avoid Lupin, but as far as I know they are not actually tested for Lupin allergy also – which would be quite useful and interesting really! Stay safe and thanks for the comment.

  4. I have to say I’m surprised and worried that this allergy isn’t more widely recognised in the UK – and that Fran’s specialist didn’t know about it! It’s not new. I was diagnosed with lupin anaphylaxis in 2006 after a severe reaction while on holiday in France (supermarket apple tart now banned!). When I was referred to St Thomas’s they were really brilliant and on the ball, had lupin flour for skin-prick tests and confirmed my own google-assisted self-diagnosis. I am not allergic to peanuts but had had a more minor reaction previously in the UK after eating something I now realise must have contained lupin. Because it’s not commonly used here we’re probably more ignorant but you do find it in baked goods and (really weirdly) I was recently served a sandwich on a plane – where I thought they were quite well-informed and risk-averse – which contained lupin. Lupin was only approved for food use, I think, in the mid-nineties and you have to ask why on earth it’s necessary to use it? It is now required to be listed as an allergen on ingredients lists so for packaged goods it’s easy to avoid if you’re careful, but be wary in cafes etc on the continent where things may not be home-made.

  5. Hey
    I was diagnosed with a Lupin Flour allergy in 2008. I don’t know how it came about, but I first had a reaction in 2007, but the doctors didn’t know what it was to, and it was only a small one. I was then eating something similar in 2008, and had to be rushed to hospital. A month later, they confirmed I was allergic to Lupin Flour. Before then, I had never heard of it, and even if you google it, there isn’t alot of information about. However, this year I am studying abroad in France for the year, so I am having to be so careful. Every bakery or restaurant I go into, I am having to ask what flour they use…Every loaf of bread in the supermarket I am having to read the ingredients…. I can tell you, it is not easy!

    • Lupin is very popular in France and the rest of Europe. Do stay safe. I’m glad you are managing to enjoy the french bread and pastries but do be careful. It does seem to be becoming more and more of a problem for people.

  6. Thank you so much for this information.
    I had my first anaphylactic reaction from an Apple tart in France on holiday about 6 years ago and after working back through the ingredients and reintroducing them I seemed to be fine with all but lupin flour. I was tested in Southampton for everything but lupin flour (not available at that time) and they concluded I have allergies and hay fever….. which I have known since I was 10 (I am now in my forties).

    Anyway about 5 reactions later, normally from “dos” that are tricky to read the ingredients I am very careful and any tingling when I eat is dealt with immediately. Mainly from continental foods but have ranged from meatballs to a marinate with olives, never mind the usual sweet cakes and chocolates. However yesterday I went for a spa treatment and had the same reaction…. so now I am researching the use of lupins in skin care things as well – yes it is natural but not necessarily good!
    It is so reassuring to hear that there are others out there with the same thing, it has been very difficult to find anyone else for the past 6 years. I have felt very stupid having to explain this to all, including the medical world…. and I don’t have a peanut allergy.
    Rebecca, my sympathies…. just realised same trigger!

    If there is anything I can do to raise awareness happy to help. Will keep following.

  7. Catherine Reese says:

    I suspect I may have Lupin flour allergy – dec 2009 I went for an xmas meal and had a severe reaction to something I ate – throat closed up, mouth tingling and was violently sick. I managed to pinpoint it to the wild mushroom tart I had eaten as everything else i’d never had a problem with. I thought it must have been a dodgy wild mushroom (eaten them before but never had a problem but couldn’t think of anything else). I was pregnant at the time and talked to the doctor about it and he reassured me it was ‘one of those things’. no damage done. Last night I had a similar reaction when I ate an appetiser at a restaurant – a prepared pastry case with smoked fish filling. Am now convinced it was the pastry case as this is the common link. The looked the same and having seen this link I suspect they have been imported and may contain Lupin flour? A scary experience, thankfully I only had a small bite last night and only had a slight closing up of the throat and tingling in the mouth and it went in about an hour. going to ask the restaurant for the ingredients to double check.

    Very interesting site!

    • Pastry cases do seem to be the main culprit. I’d avoid them completely unless you’re totally sure. Especially any pastry imported from Europe.

  8. I’ve just suffered my second attack, and if an ambulance hadn’t taken me straight to a co-operative hospital I don’t think I’d have survived. This was in central London at a conference hotel, and the offender was indeed lupin flour in little cheese tarts. The first one was down to a single lupin seed in a salad. Luckily I’d asked the grocer what it was, and was able to check it on the net before rushing to a doctor. The packaging on the hotel tarts did actually mention it, which is progress, But I think this danger should be more widely publicised.

    • I’m glad you were OK. It is on the rise. So many people are commenting here and it’s scary that chefs are using it but at least they did state the allergen was present. Stay safe! Pastry is a bit of risky area now with this new lupin worry. Are you allergic to peanuts too?

      • No. Peanuts no problem. I am slightly hayfevery and asthmatic, but nothing else like this. I am a Judge, with some experience of medical topics, and would lend my support to any respectable campaign to publicise this danger.

    • Hi, I had a severe reaction in America after eating a pancake. Within 15 minutes I had passed out and had a terrible feeling. My throat had swollen and I was not really aware of my surroundings. I spent the night in hospital on a drip. I have since found out coming back to the Uk that I have a severe allergic reaction to Lupin in all forms. They are also in some Clarins, Boots and Dermalogica products so please be careful. I am not an allergic person and this seems to be the only product that I am allergic to. I now carry an epipen. When I mention this in restaurants no one has ever heard of this. I have now noticed it listed on certain gluten free pasta products.

      • Hi Mandy, Yes have found it in GF pasta and only spotted it at the last minute, when the pasta was in the pan boiling! I just wasn’t expecting it to be there. Always best to check every label as recipes can also change.
        I hadn’t thought about skincare products containing lupin. I’ll have to watch out for that. This lupin allergy seems to strike previously unallergic people in older life – very frightening. Stay safe!

  9. The allergy queen says:

    I found this too on the Goodness Direct website. Might be useful. Some more facts about Lupin allergy. http://blog.goodnessdirect.co.uk/2009/03/04/5-facts-about-lupin-allergy/

  10. Hi, I suffered my first and hopefully last allergic reaction to lupin on 1st March. The offending item was a cheese tart served up as the vegetarian starter at a conference. After 5 minutes I thought had got something caught in my throat, 10 minutes my lips were really itchy and I felt really poorly. I thought I was coming down with a tummy bug so made my excuses and went to the bathroom however on the way felt so poorly went back to my hotel room. I called my husband and a colleage who came up to my room, my right eye had swollen and I was very wheezy and tight chested and couldn’t breath through my nose. After about 1 hour my husband collected me, I was sick at the hotel and on route on the way home became itchy all over. Thank god for sat nav as my husband just hit the SOS button and took me to West Middlesex Hospital. I was sick in the carpark on arrival. At the A&E reception the staff were fantastic. I was seen immediately, put on a drip, given intravenus anti histamine, steroids and saline.
    The hotel supplied me with the ingredients for the starter which I took with me last week to a specialist. He was doubtful it was lupin flour as said it was rare and I wasn’t allergic to nuts etc.. he performed a skin prick test on my arm, after 10 mins it was within the range of being classed as severe reaction, after 6 hours my fore arm had swollen to the extent it was double the thickness. Anti histamines and 3 days later it had gone down and stopped hurting. I have taken pictures at varying stages and sent it to the consultant.
    Its so hard at the moment to remember to look at lables, I have to carry an epi pen, steroids and anti histamines everywhere. To be honest everytime I eat something I can’t relax until at least 30 minutes as I’m worried it might be poorly again!
    Its scary and it should be labled!

    • I know people who are allergic to Lupin but not nuts. Why do doctors always think they know best. So glad you finally got a diagnosis. Good luck avoiding the lupin. Hopefully labelling will get better.

  11. Hi guys, had my first anaphylactic attack in Malta after a Pizza Hut would you believe…. The Maltese were very quick to respond with the ambulance, got me to the resussitation room and managed to keep me ….well…alive I guess.

    Second attack was in Nottingham, the ambulance was slow and the hospital didn’t have a clue how to handle it.

    I was diagnosed by a specialist consultant at addenbrookes called Dr.Nasser, please request him if you are unsure, it is well worth your while.

    • Hi Tom. Thanks for sharing. Good to hear the Maltese helped and that you now know what to avoid. Lupin is being used more and more and hopefully labelling and awareness will get better. It does appear to be highly allergenic to some.

    • Hi,
      I had my first lupin flour attack about 18 months ago in holland and at the time put it down to one of those things. 2 months later at my sisters wedding I had a severe reaction after eating the cheese tartlet starter. I was sent to addenbrooks for tests and at first felt like I was wasting their time however after tests were done i have an extreme reaction to lupin flour. I recently saw dr Nasser too who was fabulous. I now carry a jext pen.
      It is worrying that even when I see my doctor that they have never heard of it and actually ask me to explain it.

      • You are so lucky to be referred to Addenbrooks. Probably one of the best places. Glad you got such a swift diagnosis. Now you just have to avoid it. I’ve found it in a pasta from France recently. It should always be labelled but be very careful if you travel in Europe – they use it a lot. Thanks again. There are loads of you lupin allergics out there!

  12. I’ve been reading all the above posts with an incredulous sense of further disrespect for the British food industry for allowing yet another potential allergen enter our foodstream. I googled lupin as my daughter has sulphite allergy which triggers asthma and so I am constantly reading labels! She’s just come back from a stay with grandparents and brought with her a Cadbury Crunchy Spider (no less) – something new in time for Halloween; it is milk chocolate with green crisped rice balls…it lists lupin on the allergy advice and I’ve never noticed this ingredient before so thought I had best check it out. Glad I did really, because although I don’t know until my daughter eats this whether it is safe for her, at least I know to look out for any symptoms and can point the finger if need be! (just like I had to with Butterkist popcorn which has horrendous levels of sulphites in and triggered an asthma attack with symptoms that lasted a full week, grrr!) I am so annoyed with the food industry for allowing all these additives without knowing what on earth they are doing to people, and especially targeting children with their new chocolates/produce. We as a nation are still totally unaware of the full consequence of adding sweeteners to foods and drinks, some 25-30 years after it became fashionable to oust sugar in favour of this ‘artificial wonder’. It seems that only despairing parents are aware that this, along with so many other additives, has an adverse effect on their children’s lives: positive correlatation shows that an increase in sweetened products goes hand-in-hand with the increasing incidence of ADH/ADHD and other disruptive behaviours – not forgetting inability to sleep due to these nasties – over the same time period. Why can’t government and food industry officials admit this and sort out the toxins from our food?

    • I despair too. Why are these companies using known allergens in sweets etc.? I can understand them using for baking as it’s apparently got amazing qualities but it’s not necessary to be in kids treats. It just becomes a long checking exercise. Very tedious. I end up cooking most things from scratch now.

  13. I am also allergic to lupin flour and am wary because I’m heading to France in October for a week. Does anyone know of some allergy cards sites that I can have printed in French?

  14. I mean the sort that I can show a chef/waiter in restaurants. Id love to try some patisserie products but just a bit afraid to do so!

    • I’d be very wary of patisseries (such a shame) and any pastries and baked goods. Bakeries and restaurants should be able to help you if you have the cards.

  15. I’ve just found out I have a Lupin allergy after having 2 anaphylactic shocks a few months ago, I have no idea what it’s in or whether ingredient lists will say Lupin? This adds to my list of things I’m anaphylactic to, I started with eggs, then nuts and now sesame and Lupin!

    Thanks for the blog post and for everyone’s comments, it’s been useful to read what Lupin is in!

  16. Angela Harris says:

    I first experienced a severe reaction to a pear and almond tart I had purchased in Auchan in Northern France and brought home. The symptoms were immediate as others have mentioned, a very scratchy throat , swelling of mouth and lips, diahorrea, vomiting and hives. It is frightening and makes you feel very unwell. On examining the box I identified lupin flour as the only ingredient I was unfamiliar with. This was 6 years or so ago. I visited my Doctor then, hoping to get tested. He send a blood sample for rast testing. When I returned for the results the Doctor told me that they had been unable to test for lupin, but that they had identified I had a moderate intolerence to Soya. So I left without any medical support and an unsatisfactory outcome. Since then I have had milder reactions to a continental ice cream (which I could find no lupin in) and just a week ago at a dinner party I had a reaction after just a mouthful of dessert homemade ( but with brioche from lidl/aldi) i felt awful. I asked my friend if she still had the packet and sure enough – there was lupin flour in the ingredients. So be aware, that there are more european food products being imported and will be come more common as these stores grow in popularity. Any advice as to how I might go about getting tested properly? I am concerned now after the last reaction.

    • Hi Angela, whereabouts do you live? My friend who was diagnosed with the Lupin allergy managed to get hold of some flour herself from a German company. She had to buy it and then take it to the hospital for testing. Not ideal but she got there in the end. And I believe they bought it from her in the end so everyone was happy. She lives in Devon and was seen in Exeter I think. I will find out for you. What you should do is a) Insist your doctor refers you again for testing b) Try to get hold of a sample of lupin flour which you could take along with you and they could test that way. c) Request prior to testing that the hospital gets hold of a sample of Lupin, if you haven’t already found one – I’m amazed that they don’t test for this nor hold samples, along with peanut allergy and other nut allergies because there is such a common link. It’s becoming so much more common now… and like you say, with the rise of Aldi, Lidl and imported pastries etc. this problem will only get worse. I suggest not eating any bakery or baked bread of pastry goods without see the label. Not worth the sickness and pain. Good luck and do let us know how you get on.

      • Angela Harris says:

        Thank You. I’ll go back to the doctor and explain the recent reaction (with the packaging) It may well be that things have moved on and testing is available, but in the meantime I’ll source some lupin flour as you suggest. I took anti histamine last time, which my husband has readily available as he gets hayfever, but hope I get prescibed an epi pen for more security. I will do as you say in terms of avoiding bakery and pastry items without seeing the ingredients listed first. I will let you know how I get on.

  17. Daniel Newman says:

    My wife had a serious allergic reaction to what we suspect was lupin flour last night. We ate some of my Heinz Gluten-free spaghetti (I have Coeliac disease). Her reactions were almost immediate, with nausea, then sickness, followed immediately by hives all over her body, plus swelling of lips, eyes, ears! She was rushed to A&E, and they observed her and she’s now home.

    However, up to this point, the only allergic reaction she had was hay-fever (perhaps some lupin pollen?). I hope she does not now have reactions to peanuts and/or peas?

    I will be writing a letter to Heinz to alert them to this perhaps hazardous/fatal ingredient.

    We are, needless to say, slightly worried about this whole thing.

    • This is quite common and is a pattern I’ve seen with my allergies too Daniel. With Soya I used to get awful hayfever symptoms for a few years then suddenly, when I was exposed to a LOT of soya on a skiing holiday full on asthma that almost put me in A&E. Pretty awful, and it wasn’t until this point when we worked out what was causing my breathing difficulties that I remembered the hay fever reactions. I hope your wife doesn’t get other reactions too but keep on eye on things. Don’t but them all out, try to eat in moderation other legumes. I have found that I now react to peanuts, soya, kidney beans, broad beans and hoping that’s it now because I love lentils, chickpeas and humous. What would I do without them? and peas, i love peas. Not the other legumes. Fingers crossed.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michelle Berriedale-, Michelle Berriedale-. Michelle Berriedale- said: RT @WhatAllergy: What is Lupin Allergy? Very rare in the UK but common on mainland Europe. http://bit.ly/h91Y8u Thanks for link @WhatAllergy [...]

  2. [...] is possible to have a lupin allergy, and there is apparently correlation between this an peanut allergy – so as always, please [...]

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