Lupin allergy is a relatively new phenomenon. It doesn’t have the same level of awareness as many other food allergies, even though it is now required to be declared in allergy labelling in Australia. What exactly is lupin and how is it used? Find out all about this legume and the surprising places it is used in foods.
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What exactly is lupin?
Lupin – also called lupine or lupini – is a legume. It is a seed from plants in the Lupinus genus. You might also hear it referred to as a “pulse”.
Many of us are familiar with the attractive lupins that people grow in their gardens with colourful flower spikes. These are usually decorative rather than edible varieties (and can be poisonous unless treated to remove the toxic bitter component).
Edible varieties of lupin are sweet rather than bitter.
Two main types of edible lupin are grown in Australia. These are commonly known as Australian sweet lupin (or narrow-leaf lupin) and albus lupin (or white lupin). Lupin is actually the largest pulse crop grown in Australia.
Lupin is related to peanut and soybean, which are also legumes. Some people who are allergic to peanuts or soy may also be allergic to lupin.
Allergy labelling for lupin
The Australian Food Standards Code requires suppliers to declare certain foods on labels whenever they are present as ingredients or as parts of food additives or processing aids.
Even if the food isn’t in packaging or doesn’t need a label, the allergy information must be displayed with the food or provided when requested (for example, at a bakery or takeaway shop).
Suppliers must declare milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, sesame, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Gluten containing cereals and sulphites above a certain level also need to be listed.
The Australian food standards regulator added lupin to this list in 2017. Lupin labelling only became mandatory in May 2018. This means that some people aren’t yet aware of lupin as a potential allergen.
The European Union allergy labelling requirements also include lupin. It is not yet required to be labelled in the United States.
Why is lupin now in the list of top 10 allergen ingredients?
Lupin has been used as a food ingredient since ancient times. Whole lupini beans are a popular snack in Mediterranean countries. Lupin seeds are crushed to make a nutritious flour used in many foods.
However lupin has’t been a common ingredient in Australia until more recently. In the past lupin was really only seen in some imported foods (including gluten free foods). Like other pulses and grains, lupin is now becoming more widely used in different products. Lupin is very nutritious as it has a high amount of protein and fibre, is low in fat and is gluten free. Food manufacturers are also using lupin more commonly as a food additive in processed foods.
As the consumption of lupin is increasing, so is the potential for lupin allergy.
Symptoms of lupin allergy
Similarly to other food allergies, a person who is allergic to lupin may experience a range of symptoms varying from mild to severe, including anaphylaxis.
Mild to moderate symptoms of a food allergy include:
- swelling of lips, face, eyes
- hives or welts
- tingling mouth
- abdominal pain and/or vomiting
More severe symptoms of food allergy include:
- difficult/noisy breathing
- swelling of tongue
- swelling/tightness in throat
- difficulty talking and/or hoarse voice
- wheeze or persistent cough
- persistent dizziness or collapse
- pale and floppy (young children)
If I am allergic to peanuts or soy, could I also be allergic to lupin?
Some people with peanut allergy may also react to to lupin as it is more closely related to peanut than other legumes.
Lupin allergy is relatively new. There have not been many studies about how common lupin allergy is. Studies in France and the United Kingdom have show that a small percentage of study participants with a known peanut allergy also reacted to lupin.1
Overall current thinking is that about 5% of people with peanut allergy will also be allergic to lupin.
It is also possible to develop an allergy to lupin without any history of peanut or other food allergies.
If you think that you may be allergic to lupin, or are allergic to peanut and are concerned that you could also react to lupin, you should ask for a referral to an allergy specialist for a proper diagnosis.
We have a family member with a peanut allergy (conformed by oral food challenge). So I will be asking about lupin at our next appointment too.
What foods might contain lupin?
If you are allergic to lupin, you will need to carefully read ingredient labels. You will also need to disclose your allergy and ask questions when buying food away from home.
Food labels might list lupin as an ingredient in a few different ways. Ingredients to look out for include:
- Lupin / lupini / lupine
- White lupin / Lupinus albus
- Yellow lupin / Lupinus luteus
- Lupin kernel, beans and flour
- Lupin bran or fibre
- Narrow-leafed sweet lupin
Lupin flour is often added to white flour and used in biscuits and baked products. Types of foods that might have lupin in the ingredients include:
- Baked products (cookies/biscuits, breads, cakes, muffins, pastries)
- Battered or crumbed foods
- Confectionery (sweets/ lollies/candy)
- Convenience foods
- Crepes / pancakes
- Health drinks
- Ice cream
- Lupin ‘milks’
- Salads / salad dressings
- Sausages and hamburgers
- Snack bars
As lupin allergy is relatively new and there is not as much awareness, a allergy chef card is a great tool to help communicate your food allergy when eating out. Equal Eats has a legume allergy card, or can customize a card for your specific allergies, including lupin. Find out more about chef cards in our post – Why we love food allergy chef cards.
Lupin in non food products
Cosmetics and beauty products sometimes contain Lupin oil. If you have a lupin allergy, make sure to check the ingredients on things you use on your body as well as what you eat. Read more in our post 10 personal care products to check for food allergens.
References and further information
You can find more general information about lupin allergy from:
- Food Standards Australia
- Australian Society of Clinical Immunology & Allergy
- 1The Anaphylaxis Campaign (UK) Lupin Allergy Fact Sheet
- American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology
and about the lupin industry in Australia from:
For advice about your own allergies you should always speak to your allergy specialist.
If you are allergic to lupin or other legumes like peanuts, you may be interested in reading about the connection with pea protein allergy.
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*Disclaimer: Allergy Spot does not provide medical advice. You should always consult a suitably qualified medical practitioner in respect of your own medical conditions, symptoms or concerns. See our Website Terms for more details.