6 Rare Food Allergies

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  • About eight foods account for the vast majority of food-related allergic reactions, but people can be allergic to many other foods too. To count as a true allergy (and not a sensitivity or food intolerance), you must experience an immune response to the trigger, not merely a mild case of upset stomach or diarrhea. Rare food allergy symptoms can include skin rash and difficulty breathing, so you’ll need to be careful to avoid food triggers if you experience that sort of reaction. This rare food allergy list includes some of the least common food allergies.

  • 1
    Meat
    Steak

    People can develop an allergy to just about any kind of meat: red meat, poultry, pork, and lamb and mutton all can cause an allergic response. Red meat allergy may be the most common of these rare food allergies, and researchers recently discovered that red meat allergy may actually be caused by the bite of a tick and not by the meat at all. If you’ve ever been bitten by a lone star tick, you may later find yourself allergic to meats from animals who also were bitten. Another good reason to wear insect repellent when venturing into areas where ticks live.

  • 2
    Citrus
    Grapefruit

    Fresh fruits have been linked to citrus allergy, though this type of allergic reaction usually does not cause a systemic (body-wide) allergic response. Oranges, grapefruits, and other citrus fruits can cause a rash-like reaction inside the mouth, which is oral allergy syndrome (OAS). Swelling of the lips and tongue, along with severe itching inside the mouth are characteristic of OAS, but it usually does not cause difficulty breathing. Eating processed fruits, like canned mandarins, usually does not trigger OAS, because processing the fruit breaks down the proteins that cause the allergic reaction.

  • 3
    Seeds
    handful of pumpkin seeds

    Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds all can cause an allergic reaction when consumed whole or ground into flours. In fact, seed allergy may be among the more common rare food allergies. Seed allergy can cause anaphylaxis (swelling of the throat that makes it difficult or impossible to breathe), so people with a seed allergy must be careful to read food labels to avoid the ground seeds that are commonly added to baked goods.

  • 4
    Gelatin
    glasses of lime, lemon and orange jello with whipped cream on top

    Gelatin can cause a serious allergic reaction—and not only when you eat a jiggly dessert. People with a gelatin allergy must be cautious about receiving many types of vaccines, because gelatin often is used to stabilize the injectable solution. If you’ve experienced a rash on the skin or inside the mouth after eating gelatin, ask your doctor about whether it’s safe for you to get any kind of immunization, from the flu shot to the vaccinations required to travel internationally.

  • 5
    Corn
    corn-on-the-cob

    You can develop an allergy to all sorts of grains, but corn allergy ranks among the least common. Like any grain allergy, corn can cause a reaction that includes hives, swelling of the mouth, or difficulty breathing. The protein responsible for this immune response generally is not present in processed corn products like high fructose corn syrup, but you should use caution when eating anything with corn in it.

  • 6
    Food Additives
    unidentified woman pointing to ingredients on jar label at grocery store

    Not technically food, the additives manufacturers put into food products can cause an allergic reaction, though this is rare. Sulfites, nitrites, and other substances used to preserve food or enhance its color, flavor or texture can cause an adverse reaction that may not rise to the level of a true allergy. These symptoms can include headache, gastrointestinal upset, or even contact dermatitis. Experts believe adverse reactions to food additives generally are mild and last no more than a day.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 31
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Food Allergy vs Food Intolerance: What’s the Difference? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/expert-answers/food-allergy/faq-20058538
  2. Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) or Pollen Fruit Syndrome (PFS). American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/outdoor-food-allergies-relate
  3. Citric Acid and Citrus Allergy. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. https://www.aaaai.org/ask-the-expert/citric-acid-citrus-allergy
  4. Other Food Allergies. Food Allergy Research and Education. https://www.foodallergy.org/living-food-allergies/food-allergy-essentials/common-allergens/other-food-allergens
  5. Adverse Reactions to Food Additives. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, New England Chapter. https://asthmaandallergies.org/food-allergies/adverse-reactions-to-food-additives/
  6. Corn Allergy. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. https://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergies/types-food-allergy/corn-allergy
  7. Wolver SE, Sun DR, Commins SP, Schwartz LB. A peculiar cause of anaphylaxis: no more steak? The journey to discovery of a newly recognized allergy to galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose found in mammalian meat. J Gen Intern Med. 2013 Feb;28(2):322-5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22815061/

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