As much as we love insects we also want to educate you on insect allergens. So here’s a brief guide to why if you’re allergic to shellfish you will have to avoid the insects!
There are two kinds of shellfish, the first kind is crustaceans such as lobster, crab, shrimp, crayfish and barnacles. The second type is molluscs which includes clams, oysters, mussels and scallops. Squid, cuttlefish and octopus also fall into the mollusc category because even though they have no shell they are still a related species. These are known as cephalopods. Allergies to molluscs are not as common as allergies to crustaceans.
SHELLFISH & INSECT ALLERGENS
The crustacean allergen is one of the most common of all life-threatening allergies, sending the most people to A & E each year. Insects and crustaceans are similar in that they are arthropods, defined by their exoskeleton, segmented bodies and appendages. Food allergens are still somewhat mystifying but they are mainly caused by proteins. Chitin, however is a polysaccharide (complex carbohydrate) which is found in the shells of shellfish and crustaceans and can be an allergen.
It is this that is also found in the exoskeletons of many insects. (It’s also a characteristic feature of the cell walls in fungi – just in case you were intrigued to know.) So unfortunately if you’re allergic to crustaceans, you will most likely be allergic to insects too. Double punishment! But this is why it’s important to understand these allergens.
However, we do not want to put you off. Most people are perfectly fine to eat insects as long as they are not already allergic to the allergens found in crustaceans. Just be sure to always check the packaging of any product for allergens before diving in!