If you or a family member has recently been diagnosed with a peanut allergy, one of the first things you’re probably looking for is a peanut-free food list. Many of those with peanut allergies believe that knowing which foods are ‘safe’ and which are ‘unsafe’ is the key to avoiding an allergic reaction.
While the idea that you can stick to a list of safe foods is comforting, in fact, those with severe allergies must be more vigilant. Food manufacturers can change their ingredient list or manufacturing process at any time. If you are relying on an outdated list, you may miss the inclusion of peanut ingredients. It’s better to read the ingredient labels every time – even if you’ve purchased that product many times before – than to rely on a list of foods assumed to be safe.
If there is a particular food you’re looking for, and the label is unclear, check online to see if the food appears on a ‘peanut-free food’ list. This isn’t a guarantee that it is truly peanut-free, but it is a good sign. You can also call the manufacturer for confirmation that the product does not contain peanuts and has been processed on peanut-free equipment.
With that being said, there are certain categories of foods that tend to be riskier for those with peanut allergies. This includes most prepacked, store-bought treats, including the obvious (trail mix and cereal) and the not-so-obvious (fruit snacks, ice cream). Any baked or processed foods may have been made on equipment that also handles peanuts, and any leftover residue can cross-contaminate the food. However, even among these food categories, there are brands committed to offering allergen-free products. In addition, there are plenty of foods – such as fresh fruits and vegetables – that carry a low risk for cross-contamination.