NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — A growing number of people are turning to gluten-free food, but many are unaware that it often contains a potentially harmful ingredient.
Some people avoid gluten because they’re allergic, others because they feel that it’s healthier, but whatever the reason few realize that there’s often an ingredient in gluten-free products that could be harmful to some.
“There are case reports of people having severe life-threatening anaphylactic reactions,” Dr. David Stukus, Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, explained.
As CBS’s Kristine Johnson explained, the ingredient is called lupine.
“Lupine is a legume, related to peanuts,” Dr. Paul Ehrlich, Allergy Specialist, NYU Langone Medical Center said.
Just like its peanut counterpart lupine can cause a variety of allergic reactions in some people, from itchiness to difficulty breathing, according to Dr, Ehrlich.
“We tell people that if they’re going to use lupine they’ve got to be very careful,” Dr. Ehrlich said.
With the growth of the gluten-free market lupine is everywhere now.
Michelle Tampakis is an instructor with the Institute of Culinary Education and said that because lupine has a similar consistency to wheat flour when ground it makes a great substitute in gluten-free foods.
“It’s very high in protein, high in antioxidants, and dietary fiber,” Tampakis said.
For all its health benefits doctors are concerned because they say many people have no idea what lupine, or lupin as it is also called, is. Or, that they might be allergic to it.
“I’m a board certified allergist, and I wasn’t aware of the allergenicity of lupin until recently,” Dr. Stukus said.
In September, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about the potential hazards of lupine. In Europe lupine is listed on labels as an allergen, something Tampakis says to needs to happen here.
“If it triggers the same reaction as peanuts, then I think it needs to be labeled as an allergen,” Tampakis said.
The FDA wants to stress that for the majority of people lupine is considered a safe and nutritious food. The agency said that it is actively monitoring complaints of lupine allergies by U.S. consumers.