Vanilla Allergy Test
Latin name: Vanilla planifolia
Common names: Vanilla
Synonyms: Vanilla fragrans, Vanilla tahitensis
Vanilla is a spice which may result in allergy symptoms in sensitised individuals.
NB: While over 150 varieties of vanilla orchid exist, only two species are used for their fragrance or flavour commercially.
Of these, Bourbon or Mexican vanilla is the most well known (V. planifolia / V. fragrans) and widely used, having the typical vanilla aroma and flavour.
Tahitian vanilla V. tahitensis is found only in Tahiti and is described as having an aroma redolent of prunes, liquorice, cherry or wine.
Vanilla Allergy Test: Allergen Exposure
Vanilla originated in Mexico, and was used by the Aztecs, particularly in the traditional drink xocolatl, a mixture of cocoa beans, vanilla and honey. It is now grown in tropical climates around the world, including in the West Indies, Central America, and South America as well as on several islands of the South Pacific and Indian oceans.
The largest producers are Madagascar and Indonesia, which between them produce two-thirds of the world’s supply of vanilla.
Due to the labour intensive nature of growing and harvesting vanilla, it is one of the world’s most expensive spices alongside saffron and cardamom. This has led to the development of various artificial vanilla flavourings, although none of these are regarded as equal in flavour to natural vanilla.
The sweet, mellow flavour of vanilla makes it an ideal ingredient for puddings, cakes, custards, creams, soufflés and ice cream. Vanilla is a key flavouring in many commercial chocolate and confectionery items and several liqueurs such as Crème de Cacao and Galliano. It is also used in the production of perfumes, cigars, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
Vanilla Allergy Test: Allergen Description
No allergens present in vanilla have been characterised to date.
Vanilla Allergy Test: Potential Cross-Reactivity
An extensive cross-reactivity among the different individual species of the genus could be expected but in fact does not occur frequently.
Vanilla Allergy Test: Clinical Experience
Vanilla may uncommonly induce symptoms of food or skin allergy in sensitised individuals.
Contact sensitivity to Vanilla was experienced in a lip salve, in a 13-year-old girl who had a 2-year history of recurrent dermatitis on and around her lips.
Allergy to Vanilla on a face as a result of a hair lotion containing tincture of Vanilla has been described.
The role of flavouring was studied in 11 children under 5 years of age suffering from severe atopic dermatitis. In all cases, the dietary questionnaire showed a high daily intake of natural vanilla and artificial vanillin. Double-blind oral provocation tests were carried out with balsam of Peru, natural vanilla, and artificial vanilla. Nine children out of 11 presented eczematous reactions, and 1 presented urticaria. Elimination of the food flavouring agents resulted in a clear improvement in 6 children.
The study points out the risk of increasing consumption of flavouring agents, and bring into question the traditional attitude of considering food flavouring agents as innocuous.
Bronchospasm caused by vanillin and lactose was detected in controlled double-blind challenge tests in an asthmatic patient.
Occupational contact dermatitis from vanilla may occur from growing or processing vanilla, in the manufacture of vanillin, or in bakers and beverage makers. Occupational dermatitis may occur as a result of the vanilla itself or the volatile oil present.
Ethylvanillin has been found to be the cause of a case of occupational contact dermatitis.