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Key Allergens

Beef is a meat from cows, which are in the Bovidae family of animals. Other animals in this family include sheep, goats and buffalo.

There are 12 allergens associated with cows, 3 of them relate to an allergy to consumption of meat (rather than to the milk they produce). One of the allergenic proteins is a lipocalin, an allergen common in pet hair allergies. These proteins transport molecules like lipids and steroids around the body.

Serum albumin proteins are responsible for allergic reactions to mammalian meat in general, if allergic to many types of red meat then you may have Alpha-gal Syndrome.

If sensitised to Bovine Serum Albumin (BSA) only, then you may have issues with eating beef and drinking cow's milk.

Food Intolerances

Food is low in FODMAP Food is low in salicylates

Most unprocessed meats are low FODMAP foods, beef is no different. FODMAP stands for Fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. Foods high in FODMAPs can cause symptoms of food intolerance, affecting the gastro intestinal system and this can be mistaken for a true IgE food allergy.

Meats are Salicylates free, so are unlikely to cause gastrointestinal food intolerance symptoms in people who are sensitive to salicylates.

You can read more about Food Intolerances on the dedicated Food Intolerance Page.

Associated Syndromes

An allergic syndrome associated with beef allergy is Alpha-gal syndrome. This is when a person is bitten by a tick. The tick passes on a carbohydrate called galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose (also known as alpha-gal). This carbohydrate causes an immune reaction to make IgE antibodies. This is an unusual syndrome as it is caused by a carbohydrate and not a protein and because it often causes delayed IgE allergic reactions unlike classic IgE reactions which are very quick.

Cross Reactivity

In extreme cases there may be some cross reactivity between other foods containing serum albumin proteins. These foods include other meats such as pork and lamb.

This is also the case for Alpha-gal Syndrome, other mammalian and bird meats containing serum albumin may cause delayed IgE reactions.

About 10% of cow's milk allergy sufferers will also react to beef when consumed.

Food lists are not exhaustive, the most up to date information is on the Cross Reactivity Tool.



Science Direct - Galactose-alpha-1-3-galactose

Allergen Encyclopedia - Beef

DermNet NZ - Tick bite induced red meat allergy

Anaphylaxis Campaign - Tick bites and allergic reactions to red meat

ACAAI - Meat Allergy

CDC - Alpha-gal Allergy

Healthline - FODMAP Foods

Articles and Journals

Addressing the emerging concern of tick-borne meat allergy in the U.S.: a call to action, 2024

Red Meat Hypersensitivity and Probable AlphaGal Syndrome: Prevalence Among Adolescents, 2024

Clinical Use of the ImmunoCAP Inhibition Test in the Diagnosis of Meat Allergy Caused by a Tick Bite in an Adult Male with No Previous Atopic History, 2023

Bos d 13, A Novel Heat-Stable Beef Allergen, 2023

The Meat of the Matter: Understanding and Managing Alpha-Gal Syndrome, 2022

Milk and cow’s meat allergy in a child: A clinical case, 2021

Red meat allergy in children and adults, 2019

The alpha-Gal syndrome: new insights into the tick-host conflict and cooperation, 2019

Galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose sensitization is a prerequisite for pork-kidney allergy and cofactor-related mammalian meat anaphylaxis, 2014

Bovine Serum Albumin: a double allergy risk, 2013

Beef allergy: a review of 12 cases, 2003

Anaphylaxis to cow's milk and beef meat proteins, 2002

Beef allergy in children with cow's milk allergy; cow's milk allergy in children with beef allergy, 2002

Beef allergy in children, 2000

Molecular and crystal properties of Bos d 2, an allergenic protein of the lipocalin family, 1998

cDNA cloning and protein analysis of a bovine dermal allergen with homology to psoriasin, 1995

Let me know if you found any of these interesting or useful. If you spot an article or research that you think is interesting you can message me or tag me on Facebook or Twitter - links at the bottom of the page.

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