Is Old Bay Seasoning Making You Sick? Here Are The Possible Reasons!

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If you check the Old Bay ingredients on the website, you’ll find the usual ingredients like celery salt, spices like black and red pepper, and paprika. The owners of the Old Bay seasoning haven’t disclosed its entire ingredient list because of the fear of being copied. Still, they have released an allergen statement where they have listed down possible allergens like peanuts, tree nuts, monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is a flavor enhancer, gluten, dairy, soy, and so on.

If you experience some digestive issues after eating food that had the Old Bay seasoning in it, chances are you have food intolerance towards either gluten, lactose, MSG, or mild allergic reaction to nuts, fish, or shellfish present in the Old Bay seasoning.

Becoming a popular condiment in Maryland, Old Bay soon became the staple in every household. But, as much as thousands of consumers love it, is the Old Bay seasoning making some people sick?

Old Bay seasoning is a blend of various herbs and spices. Old Bay seasoning has always been a staple condiment used in many households and many restaurants across Maryland.

The Old Bay seasoning was founded by a Jewish-German immigrant named Gustav Brunn, who escaped from Nazi Germany, with his family, to New York City and later Baltimore, Maryland.

Old Bay seasoning is used mainly to season crab and shrimp dishes. People also use them to season oyster stew and in clam chowder.

The Old Bay seasoning has become more versatile in the modern-day, where people use it on popcorn, salads, fried chicken, corn on the cob, beef, boiled peanuts, potato chips, eggs, tater tots, dips, and so on.

But as much as Old Bay seasoning is loved by many, it’s also not suitable for everyone, and many criticize it.

Many of the ingredients are kept a secret, but the list of allergens is disclosed on their website, and if these ingredients are read carefully, we can know why some people get sick every time they eat any food item that has Old Bay seasoning in it.

To know why some people get sick, we first need to understand basic things like whether you have a food allergy or are intolerant towards a particular food.

Food allergy vs. intolerance

Food allergy can be defined as an immune system response to a particular food. It happens when the body mistakes an ingredient in the food as harmful, and so it creates a defense system with antibodies to fight off that ingredient.

A woman is scratching her arm, possibly because of a food allergy to something she ate.

The allergic reaction happens when the body is fighting against the “foreign invader” in the body.

On the other hand, food intolerance is more of a digestive system response than an immune system.

Food intolerance occurs when the body’s digestive system cannot break down the food, is irritated by it, or cannot properly digest it. The most common food intolerance is towards lactose present in milk and other dairy products.

Another main difference between food allergy and food intolerance is that only a tiny amount consumed can trigger an allergic reaction if you have a food allergy. On the other hand, you may not have any symptoms of food intolerance unless you consume a large portion of food.

Symptoms of food allergy are:

  • Hives or rashes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Diarrhea
  • Chest pain
  • Itchy skin
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea

Symptoms of food intolerance are:

  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Gas, bloating, or cramping
  • Heartburn
  • Headaches

The list of allergens present in Old Bay seasoning

The ingredient list on the back of every Old Bay seasoning product and their website includes- Celery Salt, Spices (Including Red Pepper and Black Pepper), and Paprika.

The following are the list of allergens or food sensitivities listed on the website:

  • Monosodium Glutamate (or MSG)
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (hazelnut, cashews, macadamia nut, brazil nuts, walnut)
  • Milk and milk products
  • Gluten-containing grains including oats, barley, rye, triticale, and kamut
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Shellfish
  • Soy
  • Yellow Dye #5 (tartrazine)
  • Sulfites over 10 ppm

Why do you become sick after consuming Old Bay seasoning?

I think the main reason anyone gets sick mainly from Old Bay seasoning and not from the food it was used upon is that the person might have food intolerance towards one or more ingredients of the Old Bay seasoning.

If you’re getting sick, like experiencing stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, or stomach cramps, then you’re experiencing a food intolerance.

Two of the typical food intolerances you can have are:


Gluten is a type of protein present in wheat, barley, and rye. A person with gluten intolerance may experience symptoms like bloating and pain in the abdominal area.

Gluten intolerance can sometimes become a discomfort for people but very rarely do people need emergency care.

Symptoms of gluten intolerance are:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Sometimes a skin rash


Lactose intolerance is when your body doesn’t make enough lactase, an enzyme that helps digest lactose. The undigested lactose moves into your colon, where it’s broken down by bacteria, causing gas and bloating.

As a result, when consuming dairy products, people can experience severe bouts of diarrhea, vomiting, and bloating.

The main symptoms of lactose intolerance are:

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting      
  • Stomach cramps

Other than Gluten and lactose present in the Old Bay seasoning, some people might experience digestive issues because of the use of MSG in the product.

So, the reason why you’re getting sick after consuming food containing Old Bay seasoning is that you might be intolerant towards any of the ingredients listed above.

Suppose you’re experiencing any severe symptoms like swelling of the face, lips, or throat, itching, rashes, or breathing troubles.

In that case, you might be experiencing an allergic reaction towards nuts, fish, or shellfish in the seasoning. Visit your nearest emergency center or call 911 immediately.


What can I use as seasoning for seafood?

You can use parsley, garlic, sage, chives, fresh dill. You can either use a single ingredient or mix many ingredients like paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, fresh dill, and chives.

What can I use instead of Old Bay seasoning?

You can try using celery salt, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, seafood seasoning together.

What alternatives can lactose intolerant people have?

Rice milk, oat milk, hazelnut milk, foods that have labels like “dairy-free” or “vegan.”


As much as you love adding the Old Bay seasoning to your seafood platter, refrain from doing so if you’ve noticed getting sick on multiple occasions after consuming it.

There’s a reason why our taste buds love adding the Old Bay seasoning to almost everything we make, but the digestive system needn’t reciprocate the same. So, be cautious while using the Old Bay seasoning.

If the Old Bay seasoning isn’t working for you, there are plenty of other seasoning products available in the market, but remember to read the ingredient list to avoid any allergic reaction, or mix some of the single ingredients and make your seasoning.


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