What do you know about fish allergy and crocodile meat? Eating crocodile might not be everyone’s taste, but if you have a fish allergy there is a good reason for you to think twice. This reptile is now a known cause of serious food allergies.
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Eating crocodile meat
Depending where you live in the world, you might be surprised that people eat crocodile. It is a common source of protein in tropical areas around the world. Here in Australia, Crocodile meat is quite popular, especially in the northern states like Queensland. We’ve eaten crocodile when visiting tropical far north Queensland, but it’s also on the menu at restaurants around the country. Similarly, alligator features on menus in the Southern United States, including in authentic Cajun cooking in Louisiana. There are crocodile and alligator farms in many countries around the world.
Crocodile meat is actually quite tasty. It looks a lot like fish and has a similar texture to a white fish fillet. But it tastes more like chicken. You can cook with crocodile in lots of different ways. Barbecue some crocodile fillet, make fried crocodile and chips, stir fry crocodile with vegetables. Anything that you would normally do with chicken or fish, or even veal. You can find crocodile recipes online and featured in cookbooks like The Exotic Meat Cookbook: From Antelope to Zebra.
Fish is a top 10 food allergen in Australia and is in the top allergen listings in may countries. About 3% of people are allergic to fish, and it can cause life threatening reactions (anaphylaxis)1. People who have a fish allergy may be allergic to many species of fish, or may be able to eat some types. Some commonly eaten fish include anchovies, barramundi, cod, flake. garfish, salmon sardines, tuna and whiting.
There are a few different proteins in fish that cause allergies. The main one is a protein called “parvalbumin”. Most species of fish contain this protein, but in different amounts.
New research shows strong link between fish allergy and crocodile allergy
A recent study of children with fish allergy found that approximately 70% of those tested were also allergic to crocodile meat2. Crocodile meat also contains a parvalbumin protein.
The study was lead by Dr Thimo Ruethers from James Cook University’s Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine, in collaboration with Dr Sam Mehr from The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Epworth Hospital. It was prompted by recent reports of anaphylactic reactions in people who had eaten crocodile meat. Study participants – who had a fish allergy – underwent allergy skin prick testing and blood analysis. These test results showed that most of them would be likely to have an allergic reaction to crocodile as well.
“We have now coined the term ‘fish-crocodile syndrome’: fish-allergic individuals may be at risk of serious allergic reactions upon consumption of crocodilian meat due to them being highly reactive to crocodile parvalbumin. This generally harmless protein is now the very first reptile allergen registered with the World Health Organisation.”Dr Sam Mehr, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney1
Will all people allergic to fish be allergic to crocodile?
Not all people with a fish allergy will also be allergic to crocodile. The study indicated that about 70% of participants were likely to react to crocodile as well as fish. However, people with a fish allergy should avoid eating alligator or crocodile until they seek specialist advice and have allergy testing to confirm tolerance.
Other unusual food allergies
The top food allergies around the world are allergies to commonly eaten foods. However, with unusual or new sources of food becoming more popular, researchers are finding some allergy-causing food proteins in common.
Did you know that if you are allergic to shellfish (crustaceans or molluscs) or dust mites, you may also be allergic to edible insects like crickets?
And that lupin (a type of legume) is now a top allergen in Australia? Lupin can be an issue for some people with peanut allergy.
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References and more information
For more information about fish allergies and crocodile meat, see these references we’ve referred to in this post:
- 1Australia Society for Clinical Immunology and Allergy, Dietary Guide for Food Allergy, Fish Allergy, 2019
- 2James Cook University Media Release, “Croc meat may be unsafe for fish allergy sufferers”, 20 May 2022
- Thimo Ruethers,Roni Nugraha, Aya C. Taki, Andrea O’Malley, Shaymaviswanathan Karnaneedi, Stephanie Zhang, A. Brenda Kapingidza, Sam Mehr, Sandip D. Kamath, Maksymilian Chruszcz, Graham Mackay, Dianne E. Campbell, Andreas L. Lopata, “The first reptilian allergen and major allergen for fish-allergic patients: Crocodile β-parvalbumin“, Paediatric Allergy ad Immunology, Volume 33, Issue 5, May 2022.