Peanut Allergies

Many people associate the word allergy with peanuts. In Canada, it is estimated that 1 in 13 children under the age of 18 have a significant food allergy. Food allergies affect 2.5 million Canadians. While there is a small percentage of children and adults who are allergic to peanuts, peanuts are not the “nut” allergy everyone thinks. Peanuts are not nuts but part of the legume family. They are grouped together with lentils and peas. However, when a child or adult has a peanut allergy, the best course of action is to avoid any food or menu item with peanuts and their by-products. This would include peanut butter, peanut oil and peanut flour. Also, allergic individuals should avoid anything on the menu with nuts and seeds in case a reaction could occur. Another potential allergen is tree nuts include walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, etc. When dining out, many food establishments are unaware of the risk of cross-contamination. In Canada a few years ago, a child ordered some chili with her parents at a restaurant. She was allergic to peanuts. The chef assured her parents that peanuts were not listed on the product. She suffered anaphylactic shock and sadly passed away in spite of efforts to save her by the hospital. It turned out that peanut oil had accidentally been on the ladle which had lifted the chili into the bowls. It only takes a drop of the allergen to cause a reaction. Allergic individuals need to check with restaurant staff as to what the menu ingredients are of a particular item. The best practice for restaurants is to prepare the meal for the allergic customer in a separate, sanitary area of the kitchen using clean and sanitized utensils. This practice will avoid cross-contamination which was the cause of this child’s adverse reaction and subsequent death.

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ENVIRO-FOOD CONSULTING is a foodservice consulting business run by Sally de la Rue Browne, Certified Public Health Inspector and Food Safety Specialist.

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