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Code: f291
Latin name: Brassica oleracea var. botrytis
Family: Brassicaceae
Common names: Cauliflower, Broccoflower, Calabrese, Romanesco

Allergen Exposure

Geographical distribution
Cauliflower, a cultivar of wild cabbage, is a plant of the Cabbage family, Brassicaceae (formerly Cruciferae). Wild cabbage/wild mustard originated along the northern and western coasts of the Mediterranean. This plant was domesticated and eventually bred into widely varying forms, including Cauliflower, Broccoli, Cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, and Brussels sprouts, all of which remain the same species (1).

Cauliflower is a cool-season annual, coming in white (the most popular and readily available), lime-green and purple varieties. On clusters of stalks are thousands of aborted, malformed flower buds. The entire floret portion (called the “curd”) is edible. The green leaves at the base are also edible.

Cauliflower plants are limited to cultivated beds. The florets can be eaten raw or cooked in a number of ways, including boiling, baking and sautéing. They often appear in soups, or as a side dish smothered with a cheese sauce, or served raw on a crudité platter. Cauliflower is high in vitamin C and is a fairly good source of iron.

Cauliflower (and other members of the genus Brassica) contain very high levels of antioxidant and anticancer compounds. Vitamins and nutrients typically are more concentrated in flower buds than in leaves, and that makes Cauliflower a better source of vitamins and nutrients than Brassica crops in which only the leaves are eaten. Other research has suggested that the compounds in Cauliflower and other Brassicae can protect the eyes against macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older people.

Sulphurous compounds can emit unpleasant smells during cooking, and can result in tainted flavour. Cauliflower is also said to cause flatulence.

No allergens from this plant have yet been characterised.

In the evaluation of a 70 year-old man who had experienced an IgE-mediated anaphylactic reaction to Cauliflower, immunoblotting with Cauliflower extract showed several IgE-binding components with molecular masses ranging between 30 and 45 kDa (2).

A lipid transfer protein (LTP) has been isolated from a close family member, Broccoli, suggesting that Cauliflower may contain an LTP. This has not been demonstrated to date (3-4).

Potential cross-reactivity

An extensive cross-reactivity among the different individual species of the genus could be expected, as well as to a certain degree among members of the family Brassicaceae, such as Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and Cabbage (5). This has been supported by a study that reported cross-reactivity among Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Mustard, Rape and Turnip (6). Ortolani et al. disagree and state that cross-reactivity among Brassicaceae species is rare (7).

Cross-reactivity between Cauliflower and other plants containing LTP is possible.

Clinical Experience

IgE-mediated reactions
Anecdotal evidence suggests that Cauliflower can uncommonly induce symptoms of food allergy in sensitised individuals; however, few studies have been reported to date (2).

A 70-year-old man suffered acute oropharyngeal itching, facial and hand swelling, dyspnoea and severe bronchospasm within a few minutes after eating vegetable paella containing Cauliflower. A strong SPT response was obtained with Cauliflower and Peach LTPs. IgE antibody determinations were positive for Cabbage (0.79 kUA/l), Cauliflower (0.49 kUA/l) and Apple (1.54 kUA/l), and negative for Mustard. Laboratory analysis of the patient’s serum with Cauliflower extract showed several IgE-binding components. The authors concluded that the patient experienced an IgE-mediated anaphylactic reaction to Cauliflower (2).

An Indian study evaluated the effect of a specific elimination diet on symptoms of 24 children aged 3 to 15 years with documented deterioration in control of their perennial asthma. IgE antibody analysis for a range of food items found that 19 children (79%) had IgE antibodies directed at Cauliflower (8).

Other reactions
Maternal intake of Cabbage, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Cow’s milk, Onion, and chocolate were significantly related to colic symptoms in exclusively breast-fed infants (9).

Compiled by Dr Harris Steinman,


  1. Wikipedia contributors, ”Broccoli,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed September 8, 2008)
  2. Hernandez E, Quirce S, Villalba M, Cuesta J, Sastre J. Anaphylaxis caused by cauliflower.
    J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol 2005;15(2):158-9
  3. Asero R, Mistrello G, Roncarolo D, Amato S, van Ree R. A case of allergy to beer showing cross-reactivity between lipid transfer proteins. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2001;87(1):65-7
  4. Asero R, Mistrello G, Roncarolo D, de Vries SC, Gautier MF, Ciurana CL, Verbeek E, Mohammadi T, Knul-Brettlova V, Akkerdaas JH,
    et al. Lipid transfer protein: a pan-allergen in plant-derived foods that is highly resistant to pepsin digestion.
    Int Arch Allergy Immunol 2000;122(1):20-32
  5. Yman L. Botanical relations and immunological cross-reactions in pollen allergy. 2nd ed. Pharmacia Diagnostics AB. Uppsala. Sweden. 1982: ISBN 91-970475-09
  6. Blaiss MS, McCants M, Lehrer S. Anaphylaxis to cabbage: detection of allergens.
    Ann Allergy 1987;58:248-50
  7. Ortolani C, Ispano M, Ansaloni R, Rotondo F, Incorvaia C, Pastorello EA Diagnostic problems due to cross-reactions in food allergy.
    Allergy 1998;53:(Suppl 46):58-61
  8. Agarkhedkar SR, Bapat HB, Bapat BN. Avoidance of food allergens in childhood asthma. Indian Pediatr. 2005; 42(4):362-6
  9. Lust KD, Brown JE, et al. Maternal intake of cruciferous vegetables and other foods and colic symptoms in exclusively breast-fed infants. J Am Diet Assoc 1996;96(1):46-8


As in all diagnostic testing, the diagnosis is made by the physican based on both test results and the patient history.