WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration is advising people with peanut allergies to avoid cumin after several shipments of the spice tested positive for peanuts not listed on the label.
The agency issued an alert Wednesday saying that people who are highly allergic or sensitive to peanuts may be at risk of a serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume the contaminated cumin. Hundreds of products have been recalled since December, from spice mixes to black beans to meats with marinades that include cumin. The FDA said it may be sold as a spice, as a spice mix, or as a minor ingredient when used in packaged foods like soups and chilies.
The spice is often used in Tex-Mex and Indian dishes, and the contaminated spice may be imported. The FDA declined to provide any further details on how it happened or what company added peanuts or peanut residue to its cumin spice.
It's unclear how many people may have had an allergic reaction to the product. The agency said it had received seven reports of "adverse events" related to undeclared peanut allergens, but those are consumer reports that have not yet been vetted.
Those who think they may have suffered a reaction can contact the FDA to file a report.
The FDA said packaged foods may not have enough of the affected cumin to trigger a reaction — but those who are sensitive should be careful just in case. Some products may not actually list cumin, but list "spices" instead.
Multiple recalls have spanned a two-month period. The first was on December 26, when Texas-based Adams Foods recalled several of its cumin spices. On February 9, the retailer Whole Foods recalled more than 100 products that potentially contained the cumin. Last Friday, Goya Foods recalled some brands of its black beans and black bean soup. Several other foods have been pulled off store shelves.
Undeclared allergens are the leading cause of food-related recalls. Major food allergens — peanuts, milk, wheat, eggs, tree nuts, soybeans, fish and Crustacean shellfish — are required to be listed on food labels.
FDA Consumer alert: http://www.fda.gov/Food/RecallsOutbreaksEmergencies/SafetyAlertsAdvisories/ucm434274.htm#recalledproducts
Report a reaction to FDA: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem/ConsumerComplaintCoordinators/default.htm
USDA recalls of meat products linked to the cumin: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/recalls-and-public-health-alerts/current-recalls-and-alerts
Follow Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MCJalonick