LUPINS are likely to be listed as an allergen on food products following a recommendation put forward by the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) this month.
If adopted, it will become mandatory for lupins to be listed as an ingredient on all products containing lupins.
FSANZ chief executive officer Steve McCutcheon said like some other legumes such as soy and peanuts, lupins had the potential to be an allergen.
“Historically, most of the Australian sweet lupin crop has been used for animal feed or exported,” he said.
“However, because of its high protein and fibre content, it is increasingly being used in food for people,” he said.
Due to the legume’s high protein content and technical properties as a binding and emulsifying agent, lupin flour and bran are used in a wide range of products including fillings, glazes, ice cream, mayonnaise, dressings and high protein drinks, as well as a flour in muffins, cakes and biscuits.
FSANZ called for industry submissions in June last year to add legumes as a potential allergen.
Fourteen submissions were made, including one from the Grains Industry Association of WA (GIWA), highlighting that the requirement to label lupin may undermine the commercial viability of the newly developing industry.
However, GIWA overall supported the labelling of lupins on foods.
Grain Trade Australia also raised a concern that “due to standard sampling and delivery procedures GTA members cannot guarantee grain sold for domestic consumption is totally free of lupin seed or lupin seed material and it is uneconomic for all grain to be guaranteed as such”.
“GTA requests no mandatory labelling unless lupin is used as an ingredient, food additive or processing aid,” the submission stated.
It is estimated approximately 5000 tonnes of lupins are sold domestically into the health food market.
The Lupin Company managing director David Fienberg said the company had already adopted a global food standard and had listed lupins as an ingredient on its lupin flakes
The company launched its new lupin flake product in February nationally with strong interest from health food stores.
According to the Lupin Food Company, lupins offered three times more protein than quinoa, more dietary fibre than oats, more potassium than bananas and more iron than kale.
Lupins are also gluten free.
“We recognise that lupin does have a very, very small cross reactivity to peanuts but we adopted a global standard on our packaging and we recognise that lupin is included in our product,” Mr Fienberg said.
“On the balance, given the massive benefits of lupins to the human population, we feel it has got sufficient recognition of people being aware if they think they might be allergic to peanuts to tread cautiously.”
Lupin allergy in Australia was first officially reported in 2004 and severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, to lupin and lupin-containing food products have been reported in South Australia, WA and the Australian Capital Territory.
A lupin anaphylaxis register established by the Royal Adelaide Hospital in 2004 contains 14 documented cases of lupin-induced anaphylaxis in Australia, as well as reports of at least 10 individuals in WA being allergic to ingested lupin.
The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, the peak body for allergy research in Australia, reported lupin food allergy symptoms can vary greatly from swelling of lips, face and eyes, vomiting and hives, through to difficulties in breathing.
A FSANZ spokeswoman said the proposal for mandatory labelling of lupins as an allergen had been sent to the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation with a final decision expected in May.
If the proposed requirement is agreed to, food manufacturers and suppliers will have 12 months to implement the requirement.