Is Old Bay Seasoning Making You Sick? (Possible Spice Allergy)

Share this article:

The owners of the Old Bay seasoning have yet to disclose their entire ingredient list due to proprietary reasons. They claim to have no allergens included or hidden in their list, and if any would be mentioned on the ingredient label when and if included. If old bay seasoning makes you sick, you could be allergic to spices. Though rare, the chemical composition or a particular protein in specific spices can cause an allergic reaction or intolerance. In case of anaphylaxis, immediately seek medical attention.

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

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 and its 18 ingredients

Old bay seasoning is known for its flavors, but people have yet to learn the various ingredients used to make this blend.

Many have tried to reverse-engineer the formula. Even if people know the various spices used to make this delicious and aromatic blend, they need to know the specific quantity used for each ingredient.

This is what makes old bay seasoning unique. If you look at the ingredients label on the container itself, it states the list as containing:

  • Celery salt, including salt, celery seed
  • Spices, including red pepper and black pepper
  • Paprika

The word spices could mean a carefully thought and complex blend that’s hard to figure out.

But even then, throughout the years, a few have been identified at various times, like dry mustard.

There have been traces of cinnamon, mace, ginger, cloves, and bay leaves listed on the older packaging.

Then there was cardamom found listed on a vintage old bay container.

Gustav Brunn’s son Ralph has been quoted saying that a small amount of nutmeg is also present in this beautiful blend.

But never in the history of Old Bay has there been a proper disclosure about the whole 18 ingredients and their quantity used.

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

Old bay seasoning and allergens

Even though the old bay is very secretive about its special blend of spices, they would never play around regarding allergies.

Various people could suffer from different kinds of allergies, including:

  • Wheat
  • Milk and milk products
  • Soy
  • Peanuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Tree nuts
  • Egg
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Soy
  • Yellow dye #5 (Tartrazine)
  • Sulfites over 10 ppm
  • Gluten-containing grains such as barley, rye, oats, spelt, triticale, and Kamut

They would never include any of the ingredients mentioned above and hide them under the names of “spices” or “natural flavors.”

If any allergens are included in their blend, they will label it on the ingredient statement printed on each packaged item, from where you can get to know if there are any allergens present.

If no allergens are listed on the packaged item, then the ingredients are as they’re mentioned on the label.

Old bay seasoning complies with US or Canadian food labeling laws.

Even then, they encourage the buyer to always read the ingredient label for any update on allergens if present for their safety.

A specific label does state old bay seasoning is free from the following allergens:

  • Crustaceans or Crustacean Derivatives
  • Eggs or Egg Derivatives
  • Fish or Fish Derivatives
  • Milk or Milk Derivatives
  • Peanuts or Peanut Derivatives
  • Sesame seeds or Sesame seed Derivatives
  • Soybeans or Soybean Derivatives
  • Tree nuts or Tree nut Derivatives
  • Wheat or Wheat Derivatives

Am I allergic to spices?

We have cleared the issues with possible allergens and how old bay seasoning is dealing with the potential allergens by mentioning them on the label, if there are any, claiming to have no hidden allergens.

Now the real question is, are you allergic to spices?

It might come as a shock, but yes, you could be allergic to spices.

It’s highly unlikely, but according to a Louisiana State University Health Science Center review, as many as 14 of every 10,000 people may have a spice allergy.

First and foremost, it’s better to look at the list of the symptoms one suffers from when they’re allergic to spices:

There are cases of true spice allergy where people are only allergic to certain spices because of their chemical composition or a certain protein they contain.

But allergies could also occur because of high cross-reactivity.

So, if you’re allergic to nuts or tree pollen, there’s a high chance you could also be allergic to certain spices.

One thing to remember with allergies to spices is that their symptoms are pretty delayed, which can make a person mistake it for a food allergy.

When it comes to old bay seasoning, you could likely be allergic to the spices involved in it.

Since it contains a wide variety of spices and the complete list is unknown to the buyer, you could be allergic to certain spices present in it.

Most common spices for allergy

While you can’t know the list of the spices in the old bay seasoning, you can learn the common ones people are most allergic to.

Various spoons with different spices in it containing some common spices for allergy

These spices include:

  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Cinnamon
  • Sesame
  • Turmeric
  • Onion
  • Mustard
  • Black pepper
  • Vanilla
  • Mustard allergy is the most common, and yellow and oriental evoke the most allergic reactions.

Cinnamon can cause a local rash when it touches the skin. Reaction to fresh tarragon is caused due to a pollen allergy.

Black pepper can trigger coughing or asthma symptoms in patients with asthma.

When to see the doctor

In rare cases, the spice allergy can lead to a potentially deadly allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.

Cases reports have been from spices such as oregano, thyme, coriander, caraway seed, cumin, and cayenne pepper.

Sesame seed has been a more traditional food allergen. The symptoms include:

  • Wheezing and respiratory distress
  • Chest tightness
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, tongue, throat, hands, or feet
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • A feeling of impending doom

This needs immediate medical attention. If denied can result in coma, shock, cardiac or respiratory failure, and even death.


How do I treat a spice allergy?

It can be challenging to diagnose a spice allergy since there is no specific test for them to get diagnosed. This means you must be active in narrowing down your allergy to spices.

If you think old bay seasoning is causing you an allergic reaction or you feel sick after consuming it, you could feel a little disappointed since the ingredient list isn’t open to all.

However, as mentioned on their official website, they provide details on a specific ingredient of concern and can advise on its presence or absence within their product.

Further, you can treat your spice allergy depending on the type and severity of the symptoms you’re experiencing.

Do I have a spice intolerance?

A spice intolerance differs from a spice allergy in that it can resolve without needing treatment.

An allergy could be potentially life-threatening, but intolerance isn’t.

Some symptoms could be common, so identifying them can be tricky.

Is old bay seasoning gluten-free?

The old bay seasoning doesn’t contain any gluten ingredients.

If there were to be any gluten ingredient in it, they would have mentioned it on their ingredient label under the category of allergens.

If there’re any changes in the ingredient list, they would mention it on their product label, and buyers are advised to read through the list each time they buy the product to be on the safer side.

To summarise

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.

If you aren’t allergic to the food you’re adding this seasoning to, you could be allergic to certain spices in this blend.

If the Old Bay seasoning isn’t working for you, plenty of other seasoning products are available in the market.

But if you have a spice allergy, it’s better to get a diagnosis first and know the spices you need to avoid to prevent future allergic reactions!

Share this article:

Was this article helpful?
Saumya Malik
I'm an ardent follower of everything good for the health and wellness of body and mind. I am passionate about providing effective solutions to general health and mental well-being issues and wants to help people achieve the same. When I'm not writing, you can find me curled up with a good book in a corner or cooking as a form of good mental therapy.

We’re proud to be a team of writers who are truly passionate about all things health.

Coming together from all parts of the world, we share a common goal of helping serve many with our comprehensive research and clear writing style. Learn more.

Nutrition & Diet