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Can Someone With a Shellfish Allergy Eat Imitation Crab?

Can Someone With a Shellfish Allergy Eat Imitation Crab?

The name ‘imitation crab’ meat can often lead to confusion. It leaves you questioning whether the meat actually contains crab meat or not.

For those with allergies, and shellfish allergies in particular, it can lead to many questions. One we’ve seen asked often is: Can someone with a shellfish allergy eat imitation crab?

No, they shouldn’t. Even though imitation crab is primarily comprised of white fish, there is still a chance for cross-contamination depending on where the meat was made.

This article will examine what imitation crab meat is and whether it’s suitable for those with shellfish allergies.

We cover the following items in this post:

What Is Imitation Crab Meat Made Of?

A plate of imitation crab. Can Someone With a Shellfish Allergy Eat Imitation Crab?

Imitation crab meat is made from a combination of different sea foods. This is commonly referred to as surimi, which is minced fish flesh.

Typically, this is from a type of fish called pollock. The fish is deboned, washed, and then generally combined with other ingredients (more on this below), heated, and formed into crab-like cuts. It’s essentially processed fish meat … like a chicken nugget or hot dog. Some even refer to surimi as the hot dog of the sea!

In terms of other ingredients, this highly depends on the brand. But examples of the other ingredients are water, starch, sodium, sugar, and oil. It’s also common for brands to add preservatives and artificial coloring.

Does Imitation Crab Have Shellfish?

It can. It’s impossible to know exactly what is inside the product without special testing for the different species. Depending on where you are in the world, ingredient labels will not provide the full scope of what is included and don’t speak to the risk of cross-contamination in their factories.

Imitation crab can have crab extract added for enhancing taste as well.

Can Someone With Shellfish Allergies Eat Imitation Crab?

In short – no. It is not recommended for two reasons:

  1. Imitation crab has a high risk of cross-contamination, as it’s processed in places with many different types of fish meat.
  2. Some product packets don’t name the exact types of fish that go into the product. It’s impossible to know exactly what species are combined into imitation crab meat without special testing.

These two factors increase your risk of allergens, which isn’t something to mess with if you have an allergy. Therefore, if you have a shellfish allergy it’s not recommended to eat imitation crab meat.

A man scratching his arm. Can someone with a shellfish allergy eat imitation crab?

An Overview Of Imitation Crab Allergy Symptoms

These will be the same as any normal allergy and will usually come on after the ingestion of shellfish. Example symptoms include:

  • Hives, rash, or itching
  • Tingling or swelling of lips or tongue
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or trouble breathing

Is a Fish Allergy The Same As a Shellfish Allergy?

An assortment of fish and crabs. Can someone with a shellfish allergy eat imitation crab?

No, these are two different types of allergies based on different species. You may have a fish allergy and be able to eat shellfish or vice versa. Some may even have an allergy to both.

Interestingly enough, some people are allergic to some types of shellfish, but not all. So, be sure to work with your doctor to understand what specific items you are allergic to.

Final Thoughts: Can Someone With a Shellfish Allergy Eat Imitation Crab?

Imitation crab meat, or surimi, is extremely nice to have in areas where fresh crab meat isn’t as available. Although it doesn’t have the same sweet and salty taste as real crab meat, it’s a very strong alternative.

However, we recommend that anyone with a shellfish allergy stays away from imitation crab due to the risk that there may be trace amounts of real crab in the meat.

If you’re looking for a safe alternative, we recommend either thinly sliced tofu or white fish, like pollock!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can You Be Allergic To Imitation Crab?

Yes, if you have any type of fish or shellfish allergy.

Allergic reactions can be very mild or very severe, and your reaction to an allergen is dependent upon how much of the allergen you’ve consumed.

Does Imitation Crab Have Iodine?

Yes, shellfish do contain small amounts of iodine. Often an iodine and shellfish allergy can be confused. Therefore, it’s best to check with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.

Can You Be Allergic To Crab But Not Shrimp?

Crab and shrimp on a plate. Can someone with a shellfish allergy eat imitation crab?

This is possible but unlikely. Crab and shrimp are in the same class of shellfish (crustacean), so if you’re allergic to one you’re likely to be allergic to the other.

Is Surimi The Same As Imitation Crab?

Yes. Other nicknames include crab sticks, krab sticks, and seafood sticks.

Is Imitation Crab Shellfish?

No, it’s not. However, there is a chance that imitation crab contains trace amounts of shellfish in it.