Nuts and peanuts may be found in unexpected places ranging from
sauces to foods. Health Magazine identifies the six places in the article
6 Surprising Places Nuts Are Hiding
Chili, cocktails, and other surprising foods to watch out for if you are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts
By Lisa Lombardi Updated on January 13, 2023 Medically reviewed by Jurairat J. Molina, MD
In a way, having a food allergy is a paradoxical health problem: You are perfectly healthy. And yet the wrong food, in the wrong amount, without prompt administration of the right amount of epinephrine, can kill you.
Sujan Patel, MD, an allergist/immunologist at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York, and David Stukus, MD, a Columbus-based spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology gave Health some insight on hidden food allergies.
A common danger in Mexican food is the mole sauce. While mole’s most famous ingredient is chocolate (itself a potential disaster for the nut-allergic), peanuts or peanut butter may also be in the mix.
“Sauces, in general, are dicey,” warned Dr. Sujan Patel, adding that Indian and Thai cuisines are particularly tricky. “Indian cooking uses cashews and almonds made into a paste and then used as a thickener.”31 Everyday Things You Didn’t Know You Could Be Allergic To
Most fries are ok, but when grabbing fries when you are out, ask about the oil. Peanut oil is the go-to at some chains such as Five Guys, as well as smaller restaurants.
“The interesting thing about peanut oil,” said Dr. Sujan Patel, “is that when it’s made in the U.S. it is so refined that almost nobody with a peanut allergy would react to it. But the problem is we don’t know if it is one from China, which is much less refined. We don’t tell people this because we don’t want them to take a chance.”
The part you are allergic to if you have a peanut allergy is the protein in peanuts. In refined peanut oil, the protein is removed but less refined oil still has the protein.1
In 2016, BJ’s Wholesale Club issued a recall of deli meats for undeclared pistachios; they had been sent Citterio’s Mortadella by mistake and sold it—along with other meats sliced on the same equipment—without listing pistachio on the labels.2
So how do you make sure your cold cuts don’t come with an unwanted side of nut residue? “Ask the person at the counter about any potential source of cross-contact,” advised Dr. David Stukus. “And if they’re unsure, steer clear and opt for prepackaged lunch meat with a nut-safe label.”
Better ask what’s in that signature cocktail before you knock it back. Major vodka makers now sell bottles infused with hazelnut, almond, and other tree nuts. Frangelico gets its flavor from hazelnuts and Nocello from walnuts.
And here’s a who knew: Many gins, including Bombay Sapphire, are flavored with almonds.3 Not even beer is completely safe. Brown ales may contain peanuts, macadamia, walnut, or other tree nuts.
Is your toddler at the stage where they put everything in their mouth? If they’re allergic to peanuts or tree nuts, watch out for your dog food, warned Dr. Sujan Patel.
Pet foods are not subject to The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act—a law mandating that food labels clearly list out in plain English if they contain any of the top eight most common allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, shellfish, and fish).4
But a scan of that puppy chow label should alert you to peanuts, Dr. Sujan Patel added. When in doubt, call the manufacturer.
Bird food almost always contains nuts or has a nut warning. One solution is to buy food-grade sunflower seeds (labeled as nut-safe) for our outdoor feeders.
A gluten-free cupcake or bread may seem harmless for all, but don’t be fooled: It can pack lupin, “a legume frequently used as flour in gluten-free products that can cross-react with a peanut,” said Dr. David Stukus.5 There have been many reports of people with peanut allergies having reactions to lupin, added Dr. David Stukus.
Also, watch out for almond flour, sometimes used to hold things together in gluten-free sweets.
Another concern? Nut butter popping up in unexpected places. “I had a mom whose child had a reaction to kale chips,” shared Dr. Sujan Patel. “Randomly, they were made with cashew butter.”
To stay one step ahead, read labels every time (ingredients on familiar products can change). Always ask, even when it seems unlikely that a dish would contain nuts. When it comes to managing food allergies, you can never be too careful.
A Quick Review
If you have a nut allergy, you know to avoid anything that might contain nuts. But, it turns out, nut allergy triggers can be hiding in foods that wouldn’t seem to contain nuts, like deli meat, sauces, and cocktails.
Check the ingredient labels, even on foods whose labels you might be familiar with—you never know if the ingredients or method of manufacturing has changed. When you’re eating out and in doubt, ask the restaurant what’s in your food and if there’s any possibility of cross-contamination.
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