The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has retracted an earlier recall of ground cumin powder from Barts Ingredients Company. At least 11 recalls related to ground cumin were issued between January and March of this year.

Initially, the product tested positive for the presence of almond protein--an ingredient not displayed on the label. The level of almond protein detected was considered to be a health hazard for people who are allergic to almonds. However, additional testing by the Laboratory of the Government Chemist (LGC) it was actually a spice called mahaleb present in the cumin, not almond protein.

“Throughout this incident we have carried out protein and DNA testing, using accredited laboratories and validated methods, and both indicated the presence of almond protein in this product,” says Will Creswell, head of consumer protection at the FSA. “Consumer safety is the FSA’s highest priority and our risk assessment at the time was that this product could potentially harm people with an allergy to almond. We were correct to ask Bart Ingredients to take precautionary action. Now that new evidence has come to light we are able to rescind this particular recall.”

Mahaleb and almond originate from the same plant family. Mahaleb is not one of the 14 allergens identified in the UK’s food allergen legislation. LGC used a type of analysis called ‘liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry’ which, in combination with DNA testing, found that mahaleb could produce a false positive result for almond protein in cumin. This is the first time researchers have identified this type of reaction.

The contamination is not believed to have been the result of any fraudulent activity.

There have been several other recalls in the UK during this incident, the majority of which have been for undeclared almond in paprika products.  There is currently no evidence of cross-reactivity due to mahaleb in paprika. However, the FSA is doing further research to clarify this.

All other recalls in the UK associated with almond contamination of paprika still stand as the evidence presently available to the FSA suggests the affected products remain a potential health risk to people with an allergy to almond.