Is Kanikama Or “Imitation Crab” Shellfish Or Can You Eat It?

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If you have shellfish allergies, there are so many products you need to look out for.

You might wonder if imitation crab is so far off from the real thing that it’s safe to eat.

Kanikama also called surimi sticks or “imitation crab” does contain shellfish, unfortunately. It isn’t made from shellfish but from white fish, hence the imitation, but to get the white fish paste that’s used to taste like crab meat, it almost always contains shellfish.

Is imitation crab meat bad for shellfish allergies

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Is Kanikama safe for shellfish allergy?

Kanikama imitation crab contains 2% crab, so people with a shellfish allergy will overreact and create antibodies, even go into anaphylactic shock.

Even if you have mild symptoms, it’s best to avoid imitation crab meat because allergic reactions can sometimes be heavier than other times, and can even get worse over time.

You should also avoid hidden kanikama like in the California sushi roll that has pieces in it.

What is a shellfish allergy?

A shellfish allergy is an abnormal immune reaction to proteins found in certain marine animals. Shellfish include shrimp, crab, lobster, and crayfish. People who are allergic to one type of shellfish may also be allergic to other types.

Shellfish allergies are among the most common food allergies in adults. They can cause a range of symptoms from mild (rashes, hives, itching, swelling) to severe (difficulty breathing, wheezing, loss of consciousness). In some cases, shellfish allergies can be life-threatening.

If you have a shellfish allergy, it’s important to avoid all types of shellfish. Some people with shellfish allergies can tolerate fish, but this is not always the case so even the white fish meat in kanikama might form a problem there.

Can I be allergic to something else in kanikama imitation crab?

There are a lot of additives in imitation crab, and this also differs from one brand to another.

The extra ingredients most often used that contain allergens are eggs and soy, which a lot of people can be allergic to.

Is kanikama gluten-free?

Some brands of kanikama contain wheat or other gluten so people suffering from celiac disease might be allergic to those brands. Most imitation crab will not contain any gluten though, but it’s best to check the packaging.

One or two brands even contained trace amounts of milk or tree nuts and might cause your body to react as well.

It’s important to note that any product that uses imitation crab in it might contain the kanikama with some or all of these ingredients and should therefore also be avoided.

Once an ingredient like this has been further processed it’s sometimes impossible to tell what’s exactly in the end product, especially with restaurants, that don’t list the ingredients of the ingredients they use.

Also read: this is gluten-free soy sauce you can use instead of regular. It’s called tamari

Can I be allergic to one brand of imitation crab and not another?

Because some of the ingredients vary from one brand to another, it’s completely possible to be allergic to one brand and not another.

Start looking at the ingredients list of both to see where the problem might lie, but it probably isn’t shellfish if that’s the case.


Imitation crab or kanikama does have enough shellfish in it to be a threat to those who already have allergies. Even if your symptoms are small now, eating more of it might cause your reactions to get more intense over time as your allergic reactions develop.

It’s best to stay away from it completely.

There are also some other reasons you might have an allergic reaction to a particular brand though so be wary of jumping to conclusions here.

Also read: this is how you cook your own kamaboko so you have control over what you put in it

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.