Allergy to shellfish occurs regularly

Allergy to shellfish occurs regularly

With the Christmas season approaching, we see a lot of luxury dishes passing by, including dishes with lobster, shrimps, scallops or other crustaceans and shellfish. What a great opportunity to bring shellfish as an allergen to your attention. Did you know that shellfish allergy occurs quite frequently? Especially in regions where many crustaceans are eaten, this is the most common cause of anaphylaxis (shock) after peanuts and nuts. About 1% of the population has an allergy to fish or shellfish. Whoever has the allergy will probably never grow out it.

Allergic complaints

The shellfish category includes crab, shrimp and (river) lobster. People who are allergic to shellfish often have a cross-reaction to molluscs. Complaints usually occur within one hour after ingestion. Touching crustaceans or inhaling steam during cooking can also cause an allergic reaction. The symptoms vary from itching and swelling in the mouth and throat to life-threatening reactions. Other symptoms can be skin, intestinal and eye complaints. The chance of a cross-reaction within the shellfish group (when someone responds to multiple crustaceans) is 75%.


Crustaceans have a segmented body with a hard shell or peel. They live in the water, breathing through gills and have two pairs of antennae. There are thousands of species, from microscopically small to quite large. Especially the larger species are consumed. Crustaceans are eaten a lot in Europe, although consumption varies greatly per region and per person. For example, shellfish are eaten a lot in Portugal and little in Hungary.


European Regulation (EC) 1169/2011 prescribes that products containing crustaceans (including derivatives) must always be labelled according to origin; for example crab or shrimp. There is no threshold value. This means that products from shellfish must always be labelled, regardless of the quantity present. Derivatives of crustaceans are no exceptions.

Molluscs and crustaceans are not the same

Snails, cuttlefish and shellfish, such as mussels and oysters, are among the category of molluscs. Although shellfish are part of the group of molluscs, the terms 'shellfish' and 'molluscs' are sometimes confused. Shellfish and crustaceans are often referred to as one group, but in reality these are two different categories.


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