Information for people with a crustacean allergy

August 2021

People with a crustacean allergy may have an allergic reaction if they eat edible insects like crickets and mealworms.

Edible insects are available as snacks or a source of protein in human food. Some of the same kinds of proteins that are allergenic in crustaceans are also found in insects. This is why people with a crustacean allergy can have allergic reactions to eating insects.

Edible insects aren't priority food allergens in Canada and so aren't subject to enhanced labelling regulations for food allergens. However, the list of ingredients must identify them whenever they're a primary ingredient in a prepackaged food.

Background

Crustaceans are aquatic animals that have:

They include:

Crustaceans are a priority food allergen in Canada. This means that they're one of the foods most often associated with severe allergic reactions.

We estimate that shellfish allergy (including allergy to crustaceans or molluscs) in Canada is prevalent in 1.1% of the general population. It occurs in adults more often than children.

There is limited information about the relationship between allergic reactions to insects and crustaceans. In one study investigating mealworm allergy in a shrimp-allergic population, 13 of 15 patients showed an allergic reaction to mealworm. None of the patients in the study knowingly ate mealworm proteins before this trial. The study also reported that these patients could react to other insects, including crickets.

Canadian labelling requirements

Some manufacturers add a warning statement to the label of edible insect foods. This label states that these foods may not be suitable for consumers with crustacean allergy. However, this type of statement isn't mandatory under current food allergen labelling regulations.

If you have a crustacean allergy:

If you're not sure if a food contains edible insects, contact the company named on the label.

What we're doing

Health Canada continues to review new information as it becomes available. We work with food allergy stakeholders to inform and educate people with allergies. These stakeholders include:

Contact us

Email hc.bcs-bipc.sc@canada.ca with 'crustacean allergy' in the subject line.

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