For those who don’t have experience with peanut allergies, going ‘peanut-free’ often seems as easy as avoiding peanut butter sandwiches and bags of mixed nuts. But in fact, finding peanut-free food is a bit trickier than that, as anyone with a severe allergy to peanuts well knows. As more schools and community groups request ‘peanut-free’ snacks and the number of kids affected by peanut allergies rises, the term “peanut-free” will be seen more and more.
If you want to avoid peanut allergens but aren’t sure how to go about it, start by learning what ‘peanut-free’ really means. Though some foods contain peanuts as an obvious ingredient – such as peanut butter cookies and salted peanuts, for example – peanuts are also found in trace amounts in thousands of other foods, making them difficult to avoid. Read the ingredient list carefully – peanuts may be found in everything from barbecue sauce to hard candies.
In addition to foods that contain peanuts listed in the ingredient list, many other foods “may contain” peanuts. You may see this label on foods that themselves do not contain nuts, but which may come into contact with peanuts during the manufacturing process. Cross-contamination occurs when food that is otherwise peanut-free is processed on production lines that also handle peanuts. Although not everyone with a peanut allergy is sensitive enough to react to the trace amounts that may be found in these food products, they are not truly ‘peanut-free.’