FDA issues warning about contaminated cumin

If you or someone you love has a peanut allergy, steer clear of products containing the spice cumin. The Food and Drug Administration issued a…

Cumin is a popular spice, but new batches may have traces of peanut protein. (Shutterstock)

If you or someone you love has a peanut allergy, steer clear of products containing the spice cumin.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning this week that some shipments of ground cumin and cumin powder have tested positive for undeclared traces of peanut protein.

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“People who are highly allergic or sensitive to peanuts may be at risk of a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction,” writes the agency in a press release.

“Ground cumin may be sold as a spice, in a spice mix or kit, or as a minor ingredient when used in finished food products like soups and chilies. Most finished products are expected to have low amounts of ground cumin, and therefore low amounts of peanut protein. Products made before 2014 are unlikely to contain the affected ground cumin.”

Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies, according to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). It is one food allergy that can be life-threatening, and even small amounts of peanut protein or contact with peanut residue can cause a reaction in some individuals. The federal Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires that all packaged food products sold in the U.S. containing peanuts be labeled as such–whichc is why the latest cumin recall is critical.

Spicy soup can warm you up

Spicy soups and Mexican-style meals could all potentially contain cumin. (Shutterstock)

Packages of contaminated cumin are not labeled as having peanut as an ingredient and may mistakenly be consumed by someone with a peanut allergy.

Such mass-market allergy scares are uncommon, but contaminated products are always on the market in some form or another. FARE notes it is easy for manufacturing plants to deal in multiple products, and if one of those products is a food allergen, residue on equipment can result in contamination. Thankfully, the FDA indicates there have only been 428 reports of adverse events related to undeclared food allergens over the last two years.

For individuals concerned about the cumin recall, the FDA gives the following recommendations:

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  • Review the list of recalled products and avoid these foods. They include ground cumin, seasoning mixes, and a variety of cooking “kits” which include “Tex-Mex” and Indian dishes.
  • When choosing a food, review the ingredients panel. Products, such as soups or chilies that contain only small amounts of the affected ground cumin may not contain enough peanut protein to trigger a reaction in most peanut-allergic people. However, people who are highly sensitive to peanuts may consider avoiding products that list “cumin.”
  • Realize that if the ingredients panel lists “spices,” it may or may not contain ground cumin.  People who are highly sensitive to peanuts may want to call the manufacturer to find out if the product contains cumin powder.
  • Realize that if symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as shortness of breath, swelling of the lips, tongue or throat, or hives, occur, stop eating the product and seek immediate medical care or advice.