Looking for Substitutions for Shellfish? Don’t Look to Cicadas!



While some people are finding new and inventive ways to feast on this year’s crop of Cicadas, like covering them in chocolate, or creating dishes like Cicada Tacos and Spicy Popcorn Cicadas. The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday issued advice to adventurous eaters via Twitter, noting that the cicadas “share a family relation to shrimp and lobsters.” If you are allergic to and avoid dishes that contain shrimp, lobster and other crustacean or mollusk family shellfishes, you should include cicadas on your “don’t eat” list.


A report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization states, “Individuals already allergic to crustaceans are particularly vulnerable to developing allergic reactions to edible insects, due to cross-reactivity.” Cicadas are arthropods and their bodies contain similar proteins to the muscle protein called tropomyosin, found in shrimp, lobster, some insects, and dust mites, which can cause IgE antibody-mediated reactions to proteins that have a cross-reactivity.


When I am cooking at home and looking for shellfish substitutions, I use fish that my family is not allergic to, like salmon and cod fish. The key allergens in fish and shellfish are unrelated, so unless you are allergic to finned fish, you can substitute for shellfish. As always, make sure you read the labels. Know where your fish comes from, so that nothing is added. Also, be mindful that imported foods often do not have the stringent labeling requirements of the United States, Canada, and the European Union.


If you do not have a shellfish allergy, you’ll have to wait until 2038 before you can look forward to Cicada Tacos and other arthropod delicacies.


To learn more about managing your food allergies, contact me for a free consultation.


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