Allergy to Annatto!

Last night as I studied away for a math test I experienced an allergic an reaction to a dye/spice I had never heard of! My reactions was caused by eating Orville Redenbacher’s Pop Up Bowl Popcorn. As my face began to swell, hives popped up, tingly lips began and nausea set in, I wondered what my reaction had been caused from. I always eat microwave popcorn and have never been allergic to the ingredients of popcorn before! Luckily an Epi was not needed like it has been before. A little bit of Benadryl and I was good to continue studying. With some research I found that annatto is used in this specific pop up bowl popcorn to dye the butter.Annatto is derived from the achiote trees (commonly known as the lipstick tree) of tropical regions of the world. It is most commonly used in commercial processing for dyeing and flavouring foods. These foods include:
– Cheeses
– Dairy spreads
– Rice
– Custard powder
– Baked goods
– Seasonings
– Processed potatoes
– Snack Foods
– Breakfast Cereals
– Smoked fish

It is inconclusive whether or not annatto is a seed, fruit or nut. It is very uncommon, but it has been linked to anaphylactic reactions. People with nut allergies also have reported having reactions to annatto. A reaction to annatto could be a cross-reactivity to another nut allergy or just an allergy to the annatto itself.Because the status of annatto as a tree nut is uncertain, food manufacturers are not required to put a nut warning label on foods that contain annatto. They are, however, required to list annatto in the ingredient list. (Bradley, 2011). If you or you’re child has a nut allergy I would recommend talking to your allergist about annatto. Long story short… I will be avoiding microwave popcorn from here on out! Luckily this reaction was not serious, but I need to be cautious because that is how all my allergies began!

Have you ever had or heard of anyone with an allergy to annatto?! Comment and let me know!

Info from &

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23 thoughts on “Allergy to Annatto!

  1. So glad that you’re aliright! Actually I’ve heard of Annatto allergies, but, and not knowing your situation, I would highly suggest that it may be cross-contamination and call the company (and your board certified allergist) to discuss further.

  2. I am pretty certain that I am allergic to annatto. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a test for it. I saw an allergist at a highly-respected hospital and she said the only way she knew to test for it is to have me eat something with annatto in it and see what happens. I already know what it does to me….my lips and eyes swell up huge and sometimes my throat as well. Also bad hives. It’s really hard to avoid this stuff…it’s in everything! I read labels religiously and have learned to avoid products that list an ingredient as “spices”. It isn’t always listed by name. Thank God for my epipen….

  3. Yep … I am Allergic to annato and gluten. My daughter and grand kids allergic to gluten And dairy. Make it difficult to create family meals:)

    • I had a reaction to Tavist, ended up in the ER with swollen throat, lips, etc and couldn’t breathe. I went to an allergy dr but I don’t know if annatto was in the coloring. Later I had a reaction to cheese but the symptoms were were like food poisoning with some swelling, lips tingling, etc. The allergist saw annatto was an ingredient and said it was known to cause my symptoms. He took the cheese and tried to test me with it as apparently there is no way they have to test. I have carried an Epi for several years and am a label reader for sure.

  4. Pingback: My Top 10! | A Tale Of Anaphylaxis

  5. I finally determined the source of all my son’s vomiting was Annatto. Goldfish, Cheez-it’s, Kraft Mac and Cheese caused him severe reactions. I had to discover this on my own by tracking what he ate when he had a reaction and looking at the ingredients to find a common denominator. That was Annatto. My pediatrician and allergist were not familiar. The allergist did find the code for an Annatto blood test and skin test. Yes he was allergic. I wish there was more awareness because it causes a lot of mental problems as well. I think warning on products should occur. Restaurants need to be educated about it because that is where my son has had the worst reactions.

  6. Just to say again in case you missed in my long post there is a blood test for Annatto specific allergy. My allergist had to do a lot if research but did find how to have the Bloodwork coded. We did the test and it was very positive. Also my allergist had me bring in Annatto paste from a Latino grocery store and she created a skin prick test from it and it created a welp. Yes there is conclusive testing but your allergist may have to do some work rather than dismiss you saying no test for it.

  7. I have an allergy / intolerance to Annatto. It’s gotten progressively worse in
    the last year. I have had 6 anaphylactic reactions in the last 8 weeks with
    no prior history of anaphylaxis for over 30 years. I don’t know that Annatto
    caused all six but I can drill down to two events where it was the trigger. I have
    a host of food allergies that I have identified in the past several years. I used
    to have sinus/bronchial issues all of the time but are gone now as I watch what
    I eat …. and have been antibiotic free for for several years now. Please email
    if you have other food allergies …. as I would like share findings / experiences
    related to this food allergies / intolerances.

    Best regards,
    Steve G.

  8. Hello! I enjoyed reading your posts. After two trips to the ER for anaphylactic shock within a week, my doctor was able to diagnose me with an allergy to annatto after taking a blood test. While I knew that annatto was used to color cheeses, I was shocked to hear that it is also used in breads, Wheat Thins (which I used to eat a lot), most diet microwave meals, many low calorie canned soups, and canned pumpkin…which was precisely what made me very sick, and sent me to the ER this Thanksgiving.

      • I am glad your doctors even knew what annatto is…..when I suspected my allergy wad to annatto, I had to educate doctors because they had never heard of it. Good luck to you!

  9. My toddler has a severe reaction to Annatto… he was having uncontrollable tantrums for hours and banging his head excessively. We were at our wits end, he was covered in bruises and he would say “mom, I have to bang my head!” Through a lot of research, I discovered that lots of other parents had these issues and when they cut annatto from their kids diet they were so much better. It’s really hard because annatto is in so many foods and sometimes it’s just labelled as “natural food colouring.” He is so much better now but if he even eats a small bite of something containing annatto we know the next day is going to be hell for everyone. It makes me sad and angry that he has had to go through all of this for so long and we didn’t know what was going on. Thank God for the internet because no Doctors had even heard of this. Annatto is dangerous and should be banned.

    • I agree Annatto is so dangerous and not a lot of people know about it and how serious it is. I hate how labels always say “colour, or natural colour”, makes me feel very uneasy about eating stuff. I hope your son is doing okay now. I can only imagine how he was feeling and how hard it must have been for you. I wish you the best of luck and hope to hear more updates!!

  10. Another confirmed annatto allergy here! I’m also allergic to almonds. Had the severe GI distress symptom for a while now, but the tingling lips thing is brand new. It seems to be getting worse because it is so hard to completely avoid it. It would be fantastic if there was a definitive list of foods (brand names etc.) to avoid/buy.

  11. I’m so glad to find this post! I haven’t been able to find anyone allergic to annatto until now. A few months ago I had a severe reaction to a catered meal that included hives, horrible itching/burning in my feet and hands, increased heart rate, faintness, and overall itching . At the time I was 38 weeks pregnant. I was able to obtain the ingredients list from the restaurant and my allergist tested me for everything under the sun. The only thing that came back with any result was annotate but it was very low. My allergist said that she has heard of people having severe reactions to annotto even with very low levels. I’m just curious what levels those of you who have had the blood test came back at?? Mine was .14 Any help would be greatly appreciated as I’m wanting to make sure this is the culprit. Thanks!

  12. All of my life I’ve had serious reaction to annato. I’m 56, when I was about 9 yrs old, I was given a snack called Pizza Spins. I was a massive lump of hives. I have to watch for it if I buy something new to eat. Instant hives. And not little ones, it attacks my head elbows and knees. Horrible stuff!

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