Cumin Recalls Sound Alarm for Those With Peanut Allergies

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An ongoing series of recalls involving cumin -- a spice used in making chili, tacos and other dishes -- has made those foods virtually off-limits for anyone with peanut allergies.

The problem is peanut protein has been found in cumin products used in soups, meats, Tex-Mex items, Indian dishes and other foods -- making it difficult for someone with a peanut allergy to know when they might be eating something that could hurt them.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory this week as the list of cumin recalls that started nearly two months ago grew yet again. Goya's recall of black beans and black bean soup was at least the eighth related recall and follows a recall by Spice Mill of cumin and creole seasoning.

Far more products are likely involved. For instance, Whole Foods (WFM) issued recalls of dozens of prepared foods this month -- including meatloaf, rotisserie chicken and guacamole -- all over the risk of peanut products in cumin. Whole Foods stores in a dozen states and Washington, D.C., sold the products.

What You Should Do

Because of how serious certain food allergies are, food labels are required to include when there's the possibility that a food allergen is present. Because the cumin and products made with cumin were not supposed to have the peanut protein there is no warning.

The FDA said that it's not clear yet, as its investigation continues, what other brands and products using cumin could have the peanut protein in it. That's why the agency is warning consumers with severe peanut allergies away from any products that could have cumin as an ingredient. Its advice:
  • Review the list of recalled products and avoid these foods. They include ground cumin, seasoning mixes and cooking kits that include Tex-Me" 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.
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