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Processed in a plant with peanuts! Hype or Real?

Foods with advisory labels that say “may contain peanuts…” or “processed in plant that uses peanuts…” can be frustrating to peanut-allergic patients, their families and healthcare providers.  It’s important as these patients are advised to strictly avoid peanuts to prevent severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis. That is hard enough.  But what is the risk for foods that carry these voluntary cautionary labels?  Do they or don’t they contain peanut protein?   Is this just a legal disclaimer by the food company to protect them from potential liability?

This issue was addressed by a study in 2007, published in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology and found at   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17544097 .  They found that 10% of foods labeled as “manufactured in a facility that also manufactures peanuts” had measureable amounts of peanut protein, and 6.5% had sufficient peanut contamination (>1 mg of peanut or 0.25 mg of peanut protein) to trigger an allergic reaction!

While this risk may seem small to some, it’s a gamble.  To put it in casino terms, it is about the same chance as drawing an ace from a deck of cards!

It seems a reasonable assumption that in a food processing facility where peanuts are present, the risk is higher.  As with any risk with serious consequences, it may be best to take precautions to minimize that risk.

There are plenty of other risks for inadvertent ingestion of peanut proteins  include:

  • mislabeling
  • unlabeled individually wrapped foods
  • cross contamination during preparation or serving
  • This isn’t just an issue for commercially prepared foods, but also for homemade and home baked foods

Facts to consider:

  • Peanut and nut allergies are responsible for about 90% of all fatal food anaphylaxis
  • It is imperative to read every food label (even if you have read it before!) to confirm that peanuts are not listed.
  • Until there are better measures of the true risk of an allergic reaction/anaphylaxis, it is prudent to avoid foods with precautionary labels.

Peanut-free snacks, candy and other goodies can be hard to find.  At  http://www.peanutfreeplanet.com/  you can order peanut-free foods from Sunbutter, Simple Foods, Allerenergy, Vermont Nut Free, Quaker Canada, President’s Choice, Nestle Canada, HomeFree, Dare Foods, Enjoy Life Foods, Cherrybrook Kitchen, Kettle Valley, Lucy’s Cookies, I.M. Healthy, Dakota Gourmet and NoNuts Peabutter.  There is a wide variety of chocolates, snack bars, granola bars, cupcakes, energy bars, cookies, crackers, pretzels, bread, fruit snacks, cereals, trail mix, spreads and even my favorite DONUTS!

So, be safe and still enjoy those fun snacks!

This information is solely for informational purposes and not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. 

 

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