Information about pea protein for people with peanut allergy
People with peanut allergy may have an allergic reaction if they eat foods containing ingredients that come from peas, such as pea protein or pea protein isolate. Peas include:
- green peas, also called sweet peas, garden peas or English peas
- other types of peas such as the ﬁeld or dun pea
Peas and pea proteins aren't priority food allergens in Canada so aren't subject to Canada's enhanced allergen labelling regulations. However, the list of ingredients must identify them whenever they're a primary ingredient in a prepackaged food. The use of pea protein, or pea protein isolate, as a plant protein ingredient in North America and Europe in foods has been increasing in recent years.
Peas are genetically related to peanuts since both are part of the legume family. There's evidence that some people with peanut allergy may also have allergic reactions if they eat pea protein (Lavine 2019; Hildebrand 2020; Soller 2021). However, the risk of experiencing a severe reaction is expected to be low (Taylor et al., 2021).
Food manufacturers are using pea proteins more widely as protein sources and as ingredients in a variety of foods. For example, they can be used as substitutes for gluten and for animal protein because of their emulsifying and gelling properties (Caudreanu-Morel 2019). People eating these foods could be exposed to higher amounts of pea protein than when eating whole peas because the protein has been extracted and concentrated.
Canadian labelling requirements
Health Canada requires that pea proteins are included in the ingredient list for prepackaged foods. Some food manufacturers are adding a warning to food labels indicating potential allergenicity of foods with pea ingredients for individuals with allergies to other legumes, such as peanuts. However, this type of warning isn't mandatory under current food allergen labelling regulations and not all manufacturers use them.
If you or your family member has a peanut allergy:
- read food labels carefully
- ask your allergist about pea protein allergy
- be aware of the emerging risk of allergic reaction to food that contains pea protein in peanut allergic individuals who don't eat pea protein regularly
- continue eating pea protein regularly (for example, weekly) if it is tolerated to help prevent pea protein allergy in the future
- introduce peas among an infant's first complementary foods at about 6 months of age
- offer peas in an appropriate texture to reduce the risk of choking
- offer allergenic foods to infants starting at about 6 months and then continue to offer them regularly
- this is the current best practice advice to prevent an allergy to any allergenic foods
If you aren't sure if a prepackaged food contains pea protein, 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:
- food manufacturers
- the medical community
- food allergy consumer associations
For more information on this issue, please contact Health Canada's Bureau of Chemical Safety at email@example.com and add the words "pea protein" to the subject line of your e-mail.
- Abrams EM, Singer AG, Chan ES. (2019) Food allergy prevention with early food introduction: New recommendations on introducing allergenic solids. Can Fam Physician 2019 Sep;65(9):637-638.
- Caudreanu-Morel F, Morisset M, Cordebar V et al. (2019). L'allergie au pois (Pea allergy). Revue Française d'Allergologie 2019 ;59 :162–165
- Hildebrand HV, Arias A, Simons E et al. (2021) Adult and Pediatric Food Allergy to Chickpea, Pea, Lentil, and Lupine: A Scoping Review. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2021 Jan;9(1):290-301.
- Lavine E and Ben-Shoshan M. (2019) Anaphylaxis to hidden pea protein: A Canadian pediatric case series. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. Jul-Aug 2019;7(6):2070-2071.
- Soller L, La Vieille S, Cameron S et al. (2021) Allergic Reactions to Emerging Food Allergens in Canadian Children. Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol. 2021 Jul 13;17(1):71.
- Taylor SL, Marsh JT, Koppelman SJ et al. (2021) A perspective on pea allergy and pea allergens. Trends in Food Science and Technology. October 2021; Vol 116: 186-198
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