Winnipeg family struggles to find food without pea protein allergens

By | May 15, 2019

In recent years, pea protein has showed up in more foods making it difficult for families like Tara Colosimo’s.

That’s because her son is severely allergic.

Colosimo said she introduced him to peas as a solid food at nine months old.

“I noticed all of a sudden that his face started swelling,” she recalled. “Since that day he’s been wearing a medical alert bracelet, he carries two epipens because one isn’t enough for him.”

She said it isn’t as simple as avoiding peas because pea protein is everywhere.

“It’s in lunch meats, it’s in gummy bears and gummy worms, it’s in canned tuna, it’s packed with pea water. It’s everywhere,” she said.

Heather Blewett researches peas at St. Boniface hospital.

She said the legumes are high in protein, are cost effective, and have a smaller carbon footprint than animal-based protein sources.

Because peas belong to the same family as peanuts, Dr. Elinor Simons, a pediatric allergy specialist, said they can cause a spectrum of different allergies.

“Pea allergy is less common than allergies to peanut and possibly less common than allergies to lentils or chickpeas,” she said.

Simons said pea protein isn’t listed as a known allergen on most food packages, but can be found in the ingredient list.

She added if you have a legume allergy and discover you’ve been eating and tolerating foods with pea protein, keep eating them.

“We know from our studies of other foods like milk and egg that if someone can tolerate a particular form of an allergen, they’re less likely to develop an allergy to it if they keep eating it,” Simons said.

Colosimo said she’s finding foods that were once okay are no longer safe for her son.

If the trend of adding pea protein to foods continues, she hopes there will be better labeling.

In Canada, 11 priority food allergens must be listed on food labels, but that doesn’t include pea protein or legumes at this point.

– With files from CTV’s Michelle Gerwing