Old Bay Seasoning: Side Effects and Possible Spice Allergy

Old Bay Seasoning

Old Bay seasoning, a blend of herbs and spices, has long been a beloved condiment in countless households and restaurants, particularly in Maryland, where it has become a culinary staple. However, the owners of Old Bay seasoning have chosen not to disclose their complete ingredient list for proprietary reasons.

They assert that there are no allergens hidden in their blend, and any allergenic ingredients would be clearly listed on the packaging if present.

If Old Bay seasoning upsets your stomach or makes you feel unwell, it could be because you’re allergic to certain spices. This doesn’t happen often, but some people’s bodies react to certain chemicals or proteins in spices.

So, while lots of people love it, some might have issues with it, possibly due to spice allergies.

What are the ingredients in old bay seasoning?

Old Bay seasoning is common for its incredible flavor, but its exact recipe remains a well-guarded secret. Many have attempted to uncover the formula, but even if people identify some of the spices used, the precise amounts of each ingredient remain unknown. This mystery is what makes Old Bay seasoning truly unique.

If you examine the ingredients listed on the container, you will find:

  • Celery salt (which includes salt and celery seed)
  • Spices (including red pepper and black pepper)
  • Paprika

The term spices hints at a complex blend that’s intentionally challenging to unravel. Over the years, some ingredients have been identified at various times, such as dry mustard. Older packaging even mentioned traces of cinnamon, mace, ginger, cloves, and bay leaves. At one point, cardamom was found listed on a vintage Old Bay container. Ralph, the son of Gustav Brunn (the creator of Old Bay), mentioned that a small amount of nutmeg is also part of this delightful blend.

However, throughout Old Bay’s history, there has never been a complete disclosure of all 18 ingredients and their respective quantities used in the seasoning. The secret recipe remains a well-kept culinary mystery.

Am I allergic to Old bay seasoning?

Old Bay seasoning is common for its secret blend of spices, but when it comes to allergies, they’re very serious and straightforward. They would never hide allergenic ingredients under vague terms like spices or natural flavors.

If Old Bay seasoning contains any allergens like wheat, milk, soy, peanuts, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, eggs, MSG, certain food dyes, sulfites, or gluten-containing grains (like barley, rye, oats, spelt, triticale, and Kamut), they will clearly list them on the packaging. This way, people with allergies can easily see if it’s safe for them.

When you see no allergens listed, you can trust that the ingredients are as stated on the label. Old Bay follows food labeling laws in the US and Canada, but they still recommend checking the label for updates on allergens.

In fact, some labels specifically state that Old Bay seasoning is free from these 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

This ensures that Old Bay seasoning is safe to use, even if you have food allergies.

Can You Be Allergic to Spices?

species on the table

Yes, surprisingly, you can be allergic to spices, although it’s not very common. Research suggests that about 14 out of every 10,000 people may have a spice allergy.

Symptoms of Spice Allergies:

  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Hives
  • Shortness of breath
  • Diarrhea
  • Nasal congestion
  • Swelling of the lips
  • Upset stomach

These symptoms might not appear right away, they can be delayed, which can sometimes be confused with a food allergy.

Some people are allergic to specific spices due to their chemical makeup or particular proteins they contain. However, allergies can also occur because of cross-reactivity. For example, if you’re allergic to nuts or tree pollen, you might be more likely to be allergic to certain spices.

Old Bay seasoning contains a mix of various spices, and the complete list is a secret. So, if you suspect you have a spice allergy, be cautious when using seasoning blends like Old Bay. There’s a chance you could be allergic to some of the spices in it.


Old Bay seasoning takes allergies seriously and labels any potential allergens clearly. However, it’s possible to be allergic to spices, even though it’s not very common.

Allergies to spices can cause symptoms like swelling, congestion, hives, and stomach issues. These allergies can happen because of the makeup of spices or if you’re already allergic to things like nuts or pollen.

Since Old Bay has a mix of secret spices, it’s possible you might react to some if you have a spice allergy. So, if you think you might be allergic to spices, be careful when using Old Bay or similar seasonings. Always check labels to stay safe and enjoy your food.


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