Saffron Allergy Test
Latin name: Crocus sativus
Common names: Saffron
Saffron is a spice which may result in allergy symptoms in sensitised individuals.
NB: It should not be confused with the unrelated species Colchicum autumnale L. also known as meadow saffron or wild saffron.
Saffron Allergy Test: Allergen Exposure
Originating in the Mediterranean region, saffron has a long history of use by humans, having been recorded as a spice as early as 5,000 years ago by the Sumerians. Today it is cultivated in a number of countries, including India, Turkey, China, Italy and Greece, however the major producers are Iran and Spain which together provide more than 80% of the global annual crop.
The spice known as saffron is derived from the stigma of the saffron crocus, an autumnal ornamental flower. The delicate nature of the stigma, and the relatively small size mean that harvesting saffron is an extremely labour intensive process, and consequently saffron is the most expensive spice by weight in the world.
Saffron is widely used in Persian, Indian, European, and Arab cuisines, principally as a seasoning and as a food dye for pasta, cheese, rice dishes (paella, risotto milanese, jewelled rice), soups, bouillabaisse, sauces, butter, cakes and liqueurs.
Saffron has also been used as a fabric dye, particularly in China and India, and in perfumery. It is used for religious purposes in India, and has a long history of use in traditional medicine, where it has been used to improve blood circulation and treat bruises, as well as to treat coronary heart disease and hepatitis, and to strengthen the immune system.
Saffron Allergy Test: Allergen Description
Several allergens present in saffron have been characterised, among them a profilin and a lipid transfer protein.
Saffron Allergy Test: Potential Cross-Reactivity
Extensive cross-reactivity among the different individual species of the genus could be expected. Saffron extracts (containing a profilin allergen) were shown to have a significant degree of cross-reactivity with Lolium, Salsola, and Olea.
Cross-reactivity of saffron has been demonstrated with Bermuda grass pollen, meadow grass pollen, cantaloupe, melon and tomato.
Cross-reactivity as a result of the lipid transfer protein in saffron and lipid transfer proteins from other plants is possible, but has not been described to date.
Saffron Allergy Test: Clinical Experience
Anecdotal evidence suggests that saffron may induce symptoms of food allergy in sensitised individuals; however, few studies have been reported to date. It is possible that the allergy occurs more frequently than has been reported.
A report was published on a patient who experienced a severe reaction a few minutes after eating risotto ai funghi, a yellow rice dish prepared with saffron and mushrooms. The patient experienced a severe anaphylactic reaction (with violent abdominal cramps, laryngeal oedema, and generalised urticaria) a few minutes after the meal. Skin testing was positive for saffron.
Occupational exposure to the pollen of saffron may occur, resulting in occupational asthma and allergic rhinitis. In a study evaluating 50 saffron workers, 3 were sensitised to saffron pollen and stamen proteins.
Contact dermatitis to safflower leaves and flowers used as an adulterant of the spice saffron has been reported. Occupational airborne contact dermatitis from saffron bulbs has also been described.