It's not just peanuts: nuts in general, found in many dishes and foods, can be life threatening for many people. Here's our guide to what to eat, what to avoid, and where to go for more information and nut-free products.
We have had lots of requests for information on diets that exclude nuts, so we know that these are important issues for you.
With regard to Delia’s recipes that list nuts as an ingredient, in many cases the nuts could simply be omitted, or perhaps replaced with dried fruit, such as cranberries or cherries. In recipes such as Chocolate Ricotta Cheesecake the nuts could be successfully substituted with the same weight of extra biscuits.
Peanut allergy and tree nut allergy can sometimes result in severe allergic reactions and understandably this can cause intense anxiety among those families affected.
Always read food labels, even if you are buying a product you have eaten many times before.
Recipes sometimes change. Check both the inner and outer wrapping of multipacks.
Under European law, certain major allergens must always be declared when they are used as ingredients of pre-packed food. These include peanuts and common treenuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashew nuts, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio nuts, macadamia nuts and Queensland nuts).
“May contain” warnings (sometimes known as advisory labelling) are used by food companies where there is a risk of cross-contamination during the production process.
Advisory labelling is widespread and causes immense frustration to shoppers but the Anaphylaxis Campaign believes these warnings should be heeded at all times and never ignored. Often there are genuine risks.
You may eat a product many times without a problem, but cross-contamination may have occurred the next time you eat it.
Foods sold in restaurants and other catering outlets, or at in-store bakeries and delicatessen counters, are generally unlabelled and so pose a particular problem. It is important to be direct with staff, pointing out the seriousness of the allergy. If you or the staff are unsure, it is best to eat elsewhere.
General food tips
Watch out for satay sauce (made with peanuts), pesto sauce (which can contain treenuts) and marzipan and praline (confectionery products made with nuts). Salad dressings may contain nut oils.
Curries and other Eastern dishes are high risk because many of them contain peanuts or tree nuts and their presence may not be obvious if the food is spicy. Studies focusing on takeaway meals have shown that even when nut-free meals were ordered, a significant proportion still contained nuts.
Foods likely to contain peanuts or tree nuts include the following: Cakes, biscuits, pastries, cereal bars, confectionery, ice cream, desserts, vegetarian products, salads and salad dressings. This list is not exhaustive.
Watch out for peanut shoots as they are being sold in some UK shops. They can be used in stir-fry dishes and salads and could be mistaken for bean sprouts. Always read food labels carefully.
Roasting and heat treatment do not reduce the allergenicity of peanuts or tree nuts. In fact laboratory experiments have suggested that roasting and heating peanuts (but not boiling) may actually increase their allergenicity
Which other foods should I avoid?
A significant proportion of people with peanut allergy are also allergic to treenuts or will become allergic. Some people allergic to one tree nut, e.g. Brazil nuts, may become allergic to others, e.g. walnut. There is also the possibility of certain nuts coming into contact with others during food production.
The safest approach is to avoid all nuts. Your allergy clinic may be able to advise whether it is possible to include certain nuts in your diet. Extra tests may be needed to determine this. If you do eat specific nuts, it is usually advisable to do so at home so you can better control any risk of cross- contamination. Eating nuts from the shells avoids this risk.
Peanuts are actually legumes. The number of people with peanut allergy who react to other legumes (such as peas, beans and lentils) is relatively small and this is supported by research from the USA. Care is needed, but most people find they can tolerate these other legumes without problems. If in doubt, raise this with your allergy specialist.
If you are allergic to peanuts, watch out for lupin, also a legume. Lupin flour may be found in some baked goods sold in the UK, particularly those which are imported. Various studies have shown that a small, significant proportion of people who are peanut allergic react to lupin. Under European Law, lupin must be labelled when it appears in pre-packed food.
People with nut allergies frequently ask if they should avoid certain foods with “nut”in the name – even those that are botanically different to tree nuts. These include pine nuts, coconut, nutmeg and chestnut. If you are allergic to nuts and have never had a reaction to any of these foods, it is likely that they are safe for you to eat. Always check with your allergy doctor first. As the medical literature shows, each of them is known to cause allergic reactions in a small number of people (not necessarily people with nut allergy). If there is any uncertainty about any product, play safe and avoid it.
Research has shown that refined peanut oil will not cause allergic reactions for the majority of peanut allergic individuals, and if anyone does suffer a reaction it is likely to be mild. Unrefined (also sometimes called crude) peanut oil is more likely to cause symptoms.
Speciality oils such as walnut oil contain significant levels of protein and should be avoided.
Peanut oil (sometimes known as groundnut oil) may be used for frying in some fish and chip shops and this may be unrefined.
Under European Law all peanut oil has to be declared on the labels of pre-packed food.
The key messages are
Always be vigilant when food is around
Check food labels
Be proactive when eating out
Delia Online would like to thank the Anaphylaxis Campaign for supplying the information for our nut allergy page.
The Anaphylaxis Campaign is the only UK wide charity to exclusively meet the needs of the growing numbers of people at risk from severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) by providing information and support relating to foods and other triggers such as latex, drugs and insect stings.
Their focus is on medical facts, food labelling, risk reduction and allergen management. The Campaign offers tailored services for individual, clinical professional and corporate members.
For more information visit www.anaphylaxis.org.uk
Other useful sites:
It’s Nuts Free produces cakes, biscuits, puddings, and celebration cakes made on their premises using nut free ingredients and without any unnecessary preservatives or additives. They also have weekly snack packs, and recipe books all available online
Just Love Food Company specialise in birthday and celebration cakes, even a ‘decorate your own cake’, their products are also all manufactured in a totally nut free environment. Each product is individually wrapped before it is sent out.
Chocoholics are not forgotten. The Nut Free Chocolatier produce gourmet chocolates forthose who are either allergic to nuts – or simply don’t like them! They can also arrange corporate and wedding gifts as well as chocolate parties
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