The spice cumin has an earthy flavor and is often added to curries and soups. (Photo: Envision/Corbis)
People who are highly allergic to peanuts should avoid the spice cumin due to possible contamination with peanut protein, according to a warning issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday morning. The warning applies to varieties of the spice including ground and powdered cumin, and any products that contain it.
Undeclared peanut protein has been found in some shipments of ground cumin and powdered cumin, the FDA says. While it’s impossible to know at this point how the contamination occurred, Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, Wellness Manager at the Cleveland Clinic, tells Yahoo Health that it may be linked to one or several points of origin.
"Most occur at the point of processing and can happen when one product (which does not normally contain peanuts) is manufactured in the same plant as peanut products," Kirkpatrick says. "This scenario is often referred to as ‘cross contamination.’"
Cumin is sold as a spice on its own, and as part of spice blends. Curry, a spice mix popular in Indian and other Southeast Asian cuisines, often contains cumin as a prominent ingredient. Cumin is also an ingredient in packaged products such as chiles and soups, the FDA says. Kirkpatrick adds that hummus, burgers (including meatless burgers), and Indian cuisine may also contain cumin. The FDA also says to be aware that the term “spices” on the ingredients label is a sign that the item may contain cumin.
The FDA is advising consumers to check the ingredients label for cumin, and avoid those products if you are highly allergic to peanuts.
A list of recalled products is available on the FDA’s website. Keep in mind, however, that this only lists items currently known to contain contaminated cumin. It does not mean products that aren’t on the list are necessarily free of peanut protein.
If you’re not sure, either avoid the product, or call the manufacturer to find out if cumin is an ingredient, Kirkpatrick advises. “Ask questions, make calls, and find out specifics, because at the end of the day it’s your health that matters most — and for individuals that have severe peanut allergies, in this case, it’s also your life.”
An investigation of products that contain the contaminated cumin is underway. The FDA is currently working to identify companies who received the cumin with peanut protein, and will continue to update the recalled products list. In the meantime, anyone who is allergic to peanuts — especially those who are highly sensitive to peanut protein — should exercise caution, the FDA says.