LUPINS could soon be added as an allergen to foods as Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) call for industry submissions.
Grain Industry of WA (GIWA) and Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC) have both provided submissions supporting the change in labelling.
"Mandatory labelling enables the consumer to make a fully informed decision and some Australian food companies are increasingly adopting voluntary allergen labelling for lupin," GIWA's submission stated.
"With the increasing use of lupins in food, GIWA supports the inclusion of lupin in the list of allergens subject to mandatory declaration in the code, an opportunity to demonstrate and further the industry's commitment towards food safety."
However as lupins take off as a health food in Australia, there is some concern the new labelling will hurt the small but increasing market for human consumption.
Coorow Seeds chief executive officer Brian Pover said it was difficult to quantify how much lupin was sold domestically as a health food, but put the number at about 5000 tonnes per year.
Mr Pover said there were small suppliers but only three to four lupin processors for human consumption.
He said he believed it would be "inevitable" that lupins would be listed as an allergen, but marketers needed to "move quickly" to promote the benefits of the product before the labelling came into effect.
"It can take a long time to gain acceptance for a new food and to have it labelled as an allergen could be detrimental to the industry's growth," Mr Pover said.
"However, we do need to be mindful of our responsibilities to consumers and ensure that products are properly labelled."
Pisconeri Fine Foods managing director and Perth-based lupin product distributor Joe Deleo said it was still a very small market as few were aware of the health benefits and its uses in cooking.
"For us, lupins are a specialty item for our Mediterranean customers - most people are unsure how to prepare them for cooking," he said.
A FSANZ spokesperson said if the proposed change was accepted, it would bring Australia's position into line with Europe, where there has been mandatory labelling of lupins since 2007.
"After submissions are received we consider all view points and come to a position on whether to progress the changes as proposed or whether further work is required,'' the spokesperson said.
"If they agree, industry will have 12 months to implement the labelling, with the earliest estimate for full implementation in early 2018."
Since 2004, there have been 14 cases reported of lupin allergen, with an additional 10 cases reported in WA.
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.
Kolindale stud founder Rae Lewis knows the pain and discomfort after a reaction to lupins 23 years ago.
Mrs Lewis had a reaction to lupin flour which was added to a baked slice.
She said as soon as she had a bite of the slice, her mouth began burning and within 20 minutes she was "violently ill".
"I'm not allergic to peanuts or any other legume, so I was shocked to receive such a reaction," she said.
"I was really unwell for a good two to three hours after eating the slice, which only had a quarter of a cup of lupin flour added."
She said the only way she was able to avoid lupins since was "steering clear of bright yellow foods".
While lupins have long been used as a livestock feed, they are being recognised as a nutritious food which is high in protein and fibre and low in fat.
Due to the legume's high protein content and technical properties as a binding and emulsifying agent, lupin flour and bran can also be used in a wide range of products including fillings, glazes, ice cream, mayonnaise, dressings and high protein drinks.
In Australia, lupins are used as a flour and predominantly in pasta, bread and other baked goods such as muffins, cakes and biscuits and on a relatively small scale.
It is anticipated that lupin usage in food is set to increase as production increases and local industries capitalise on its strong potential.
Industry submissions for the proposal closed on July 28 with a decision to be considered by federal government departments early next year.