How My Lupin Allergy Nearly Killed Me And Why

posted in: Ingredients, Lifestyle | 0

Loopy Lupin

Now I know what you’re going to say “isn’t that a flower” and “Wow, that’s beautiful, isn’t it?” and the answers to both of those questions is “YES”

This Beautiful Lupin Flowering Plant, can be deadly!

I started Juicy Lucy’s because I was becoming increasingly concerned about the ingredients going into the food we buy at our supermarkets; words we cannot even pronounce, to enhance chemical-tasting flavours and cleverly worded labels saying things like “coffee flavoured” (actually meaning there is no coffee in this, it just tastes like it!).

I truly believe the food we are eating, (or which we are being offered to buy) is contributing largely to the increase in diabetes, sickness, disease and obesity, (not to mention the c-word, which I refuse to say out loud to give it power).

Why Foods Have To Be Labelled Correctly

Let me give you an example. I was taking my dogs for a walk in Hyde Park, one sunny Saturday afternoon and I noticed a Fortnum & Mason Pop-Up Cafe. Yummy! I ‘popped’ in (pardon the pun) and bought myself a rather delicious looking Spinach and Cheese Tartlet. There was no label, no list of ingredients, but it looked simple enough. Spinach Cheese, Pastry, Milk, Egg; Simple – right?

WRONG! 5 minutes later I went into anaphylactic shock. Fortunately for me, my friend John was with me and as I handed him the leads of my dogs, asking him to keep really calm, I called the ambulance, explaining to the first responder that this wasn’t my first time, I knew what was happening and if the ambulance would hurry, as I’d rather not die in the park today.

So… as you can see, I survived. (Phew.) Upon contacting F&M, I received an email from the Head Chef, complete with a long list of ingredients contained in my seemingly simple Spinach Tartlet.

To my absolute horror, half way down, buried in the list was LUPIN FLOUR. This is a substance which is used in some GLUTEN FREE pasta, pastries and bread, apparently used more commonly in Europe. So I asked the chef what on earth this ingredient was doing in this item. He apologised and stated that F&M don’t actually make their pastry cases, they buy them in. To which I responded “Good Lord man, does Her Majesty know of this?” (As suppliers to HRH, I would have thought F&M would be rather more discerning with their ingredients).

R. ead T.he F*@-ing. L.abel

Anyway, therein begun my quest to “RTFL” READ The F** Label (my version of read the f* manual).

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 flour, is safe, but there are reports in the medical literature of allergic reactions to Lupin, some of which can be severe. (See mine above).

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.

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 speciality stores, as well as in packaged food products.

Often Found In Gluten-Free 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, and increasingly, consumers are more aware of gluten and are buying these products. Therefore, it’s increasingly important that they recognise that Lupin is a potential allergen.

Allergy To Lupin – It’s Serious

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 flour 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 to 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 eating pastries etc. brought back from there.

Symptoms Triggered by Lupin

The symptoms of a food allergy, including Lupin allergy usually, may come on rapidly. Mild symptoms may include nettle rash (otherwise known as hives or urticaria) anywhere on the body or a tingling or itchy feeling in the mouth.

These may include:

  • Swelling in the face, throat and/or mouth
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe asthma
  • Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting

In extreme cases, there could be a dramatic fall in blood pressure (anaphylactic shock). The person may become weak and floppy and may have a sense of something terrible happening. This may lead to collapse and unconsciousness.

Getting A Diagnosis Of Lupin Allergy

Because symptoms can be severe, it is important to see your GP as soon as possible if you suspect you have Lupin allergy. Some GPs have a clear understanding of allergy, but allergy is a specialist subject so it is more likely that your doctor will need to refer you to an allergy clinic.

Your GP can locate an allergy clinic in your area by visiting the website of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (

Treating Symptoms 

An Epi-Pen has saved my life on several occasions

If Lupin allergy is strongly suspected, and especially when allergy tests have confirmed it, you are likely to be prescribed adrenaline (also known as epinephrine). The adrenaline injectors prescribed in the UK at present are Emerade®, EpiPen®and Jext®. See the Anaphylaxis Campaign website for further information. These injectors are easy to use and designed for self-administration. If you are prescribed an injector, it should be available at all times – with no exceptions. Medical attention should still be sought after use as symptoms may return after a short period and more than one injection of adrenaline may be required to control the reaction.

If you are prescribed an adrenaline injector, you will need to know how and when to use it. Ask your GP or allergist for advice. You can also find help on the website relevant to the injector you carry.

Read The Label

This simple piece of advice could have an important impact on your health or the health of someone in your family.

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.

It Quite Literally Could Be Life, Or Death

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.  If your symptoms, like min,e are quick to appear you MUST call the emergency services immediately – an ambulance or a paramedic will offer immediate assistance and might stop you from dying.

Juicy Lucy’s Tip:

Be safe out there lovelies and really, please do read the labels.

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