Spices can often be hidden in foods. And they aren’t always individually listed on food labels. Should you be concerned about a spice allergy? Probably not. A true spice allergy is rare.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), spices are defined as, “Aromatic vegetable substances, in the whole, broken, or ground form, whose significant function in food is seasoning rather than nutrition.”1 Here are some of the spices Kids With Food Allergies gets asked about the most:
While it is possible for some people to be allergic to a spice, a true allergy to one of these spices is rare.2
Most reactions to spices are not caused by an allergic reaction. Non-allergic reactions to spices can include:
Sesame allergy is one of the most common food allergies in the United States. Sesame is a seed, but it is common in spice blends. A sesame allergy can cause anaphylaxis. If you have a sesame allergy, read labels carefully on spice blends. Until 2023, sesame does not need to be clearly labeled on packaged foods in the United States. If you have been diagnosed with sesame allergy, talk with your allergist about the need to avoid undeclared labels and the risk for reaction from various wording such as “spices.”
If you have a tree nut allergy, you may wonder if you should avoid certain spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg. Cinnamon and nutmeg do not come from nuts, so if you have a tree nut allergy, these spices should be safe to eat.
Even though nutmeg sounds like it could be a tree nut, it is not a nut.4 Nutmeg is actually a seed that is dried and then ground into powder form.
Cinnamon is a tree bark that is dried and rolled into sticks or ground into a powder. But cinnamon can irritate your skin and may cause a rash if it touches your skin. But this is usually not due to an allergic reaction.
If you have reactions to spices, talk with your doctor to figure out the cause.
Medical review: December 2021 by David Stukus, MD
1. Affairs, O. of R. (n.d.). CPG SEC 525.750 spices - definitions. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved November 19, 2021, from https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/cpg-sec-525750-spices-definitions.
2. Can spices cause allergic reactions? American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. (n.d.). Retrieved December 17, 2021, from https://www.aaaai.org/tools-for-the-public/conditions-library/allergies/can-spices-cause-allergic-reactions
3. University of Nebraska - Lincoln. (2014, March 10). Allergenic Foods and Their Allergens, Spices and Herbs. Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Food Allergy Research and Resource Program. Retrieved November 19, 2021, from https://farrp.unl.edu/informallspicesherbs.
4. Everything You Need to Know About Tree Nut Allergy. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. (n.d.). Retrieved November 19, 2021, from https://www.aaaai.org/tools-for-the-public/conditions-library/allergies/everything-you-need-to-know-about-tree-nut-allergy.