Walnut allergy cases up 10-fold in 9 years

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The number of walnut allergy cases in Japan has jumped over 10-fold in nine years, a survey by the Consumer Affairs Agency has revealed.

Following the surge, which is believed to be partly due to an increase in walnut consumption in the country, the agency is planning to add walnuts to the list of food allergens that must be specified on product labels by the end of this fiscal year.

According to the triennial survey, the number of walnut allergy cases rose from 40 in 2011 to 74 in 2014, 251 in 2017 and 463 in 2020.

Severe allergy cases, including anaphylactic reactions, accounted for 58 cases in 2020, up drastically from four in 2011.

In the 2020 survey, 13.5% of all food allergy cases were caused by tree nuts, the third largest share after 33.4% caused by eggs and 18.6% by milk.

Of the tree nut allergy cases, walnuts accounted for a majority.

According to the agency, meanwhile, the amount of walnuts consumed in Japan came to 18,826 tons in 2020, up 1.9-fold from 9,872 tons in 2011.

In Japan, there are seven food items that are required to be labeled as allergens now, which are eggs, milk, wheat, buckwheat, peanuts, shrimps and crabs.

In addition, there are 21 items, including walnuts, as well as soybeans, bananas and pork, for which allergen labelling is recommended.

If walnuts are moved to the mandatory list, it will be the first addition since shrimps and crabs in 2008.