Updated May 20, 2017: The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is warning consumers about lupine (also called lupin), as both the beans and the flour made from the legumes are known to cause reactions in about 20 percent of individuals who have an allergy to peanuts.
Canadian supermarket chain Loblaws recently issued a voluntarily recall of two pancake products – PC Blue Menu Buttermilk Protein mix and Apple Cinnamon Flavour Protein mix. Both list “lupine pulse flour” as an ingredient. Although the ingredient was labeled on the packages, consumers may not be aware that lupine is a legume that belongs to the same plant family as peanut.
That was the case for Vancouver mom Susan Esposito, who made pancakes for her 10-year-old son Eric with the now recalled buttermilk mix. After a few bites, Eric, who is allergic to peanuts, cashews and pistachios, felt an itchy mouth, and then began coughing, experiencing throat tightening, severe stomach pain and light-headedness.
Esposito immediately called Dr. Edmond Chan, head of the allergy clinic at B.C. Children’s Hospital, who told her to use the epinephrine auto-injector, and informed her of the relationship between lupine and peanut. “He explained that lupine is a well-known allergen in Europe, and that yes, a reaction on first consumption is indeed possible because peanut and lupine are related.”
“I was totally stunned,” Esposito told Allergic Living. She says she felt “blindsided” by her son’s allergic reaction. “I had zero awareness of lupine prior to [Eric’s reaction],” she said. “I believe we are not going to be the only people who have an allergic experience with it.”
New York allergist Dr. Scott Sicherer has warned about lupine in the past: “European studies have shown about 20 percent of people with peanut allergies react to beans from the lupine plant.”
While lupine beans ground into flour have long been used in Europe and Australia for baking, this flour was only introduced in North America in a substantial way in 2016, making it relatively new to the food market.
Following an inquiry from Allergic Living, Health Canada issued a statement about lupine labels. “While lupin is not considered a priority allergen in Canada, Health Canada and the CFIA are developing an information document to inform the Canadian public, particularly those with a peanut allergy, about the potential for lupin to trigger an allergic reaction,” said a media relations spokesperson for Health Canada.
“Health Canada will continue to work with the CFIA, food allergy associations and Canadian food manufacturers to ensure allergic consumers have the information they need to make safe and informed food choices,” she wrote.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a consumer update in 2014 about lupine, warning those with peanut allergies that the legume is often found in gluten-free products.
The CFIA told Esposito the recalled pancake mixes were tested and came back negative for peanuts and tree nuts.