What is Peanut-Free?
is a member of the legume family (e.g., beans, peas). The following
precautions also apply to products containing tree nuts (e.g., walnuts,
hazelnuts) and any food-related allergen.
More and more
these days, in our schools, social groups and community clubs, we
have administrators and organizers requesting that people bring
"peanut-free" snacks. For some people, the term "peanut-free" is
a source of aggravation and annoyance, because peanut butter is
almost universally a favourite food among young children. The unfortunate
reality is that peanuts can pose a life-threatening risk for people
with severe peanut allergy.
appear to be increasing. People are becoming more aware of the severity
of anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction). Once aware of the serious
consequences, most people are very willing to keep food related
social and school activities safe. Many people want to help reduce
peanut allergens in social situations, but are not sure how to go
about it. The two questions most commonly asked are: "What does
peanut-free mean"? and "What is cross-contamination?"
It means that food does not contain peanuts, peanut butter, peanut
oil or any form or derivative of peanut at all! It must not contain
peanut stearate or "traces of peanut". Even if the ingredient label
says "May contain traces of nuts or peanut", treat this label as
if it says "contains nuts or peanut". A food item may labelled as
having "mandelona" or "new nuts", which means it contains peanuts
soaked in almond flavouring and cut to look like almonds. AVOID
Buying a peanut-free
food or snack from the store means buying packaged food with ingredient
labelling. If it does not have ingredient labelling (i.e., bulk
bin goods, in-store produced baked goods), do not buy it because
there is no way of knowing if it contains a peanut product, or has
been in contact with a peanut product.
from the store, follow these guidelines:
- Do not buy
from bulk bins. You don't know what is in the product, or what
was in the bin previously. Scoops get moved from bin to bin. Avoid
bulk bags of food that have no ingredient labelling.
- Don't purchase
baked goods from bakeries or donut shops where the food has been
sitting with other goods under the same glass display or where
peanut products are produced. There are many, many ways that your
purchase could have been cross-contaminated with peanut. The product
may have been made on the same counter as peanut products, or
with the same utensils, or the tongs used to pick up your purchase
had previously been used to pick up a peanut product.
- The best
"baked" snacks from the store are cookies, crackers and cereals
that are well labelled and tightly packaged.
(if homemade snacks are allowed in class):
Make sure your ingredients contain no peanut products. The key is
to READ THE INGREDIENTS of every item. You can't assume that they
will be the same as when you last used it. Some potential sources
of peanut are: cereals (especially granola mix), granola bars, cookie
and cake mixes, rice cakes, crackers, ice cream, candies such as
Ju-Jubes, M and Ms, and gumdrops. Many candy packages contain the
warning "May contain peanuts/nuts" even if they themselves do not
usually contain peanuts. (The child with the allergy should eat
their own snack).
What is cross-contamination?
Cross-contamination occurs when a safe food comes in contact
with a food allergen such as peanut, nuts, seafood or milk. For
those with severe food allergies, eating even the slightest trace
of an allergic food can cause a potentially life threatening or
fatal reaction. Although not everyone with food allergy is this
sensitive, it's still important to be very careful and follow precautions.
Reactions can occur by several means:
ate a peanut product
- they unwittingly
ate a food that was not supposed to contain peanut but had been
contaminated with peanut. This could occur through an unintended
ingredient or from being in contact with peanut during preparation,
storage or serving.
- They touched
something with peanut traces and then put their hands in their
mouth or touched their eyes. The most common instance of direct
contact is when someone eats a peanut product and then touches
a chair or table, leaving a smear or even a trace of peanut. The
next person to use that table or chair could be severely peanut
allergic, and that residue, if ingested, could be enough to cause
shows that simply being near peanuts or peanut containing foods
will not cause anaphylaxis in most cases. The asthmatic with
peanut allergy will probably wheeze and / or have hives-- symptoms
which could be defined as being part of an anaphylactic reaction,
and most often treated with epinephrine. Follow your doctor's treatment
If homemade goods are allowed in class, thoroughly clean all baking
pans and utensils to remove any traces of peanuts or nuts if previously
used in your last baking. When cutting up squares, start with a
clean plate and clean the knife (not just wiped). When packaging
them, keep them from touching peanut products until they are used.
how cross-contamination occurs:
- You place
a wrapped "safe" cheese sandwich in the same container as a wrapped
"food allergen" such as a peanut butter sandwich. Both sandwiches
were wrapped separately but placed in the same storage container.
- You are
making a peanut butter sandwich. You butter the bread with your
knife; dip the knife into the peanut butter and spread it on the
bread, then dip the knife into honey or jam and spread it on the
bread. Cut the sandwich on the bread board and place the sandwich
on a plate. You wipe the knife with a dishrag. At this point there
are traces of peanut on: The knife..in the butter..in the jam
or honey..on the cutting board.. on the plate.. your hands...the
washcloth and everything IT touches.
- You have
been eating peanuts and kissed a child.
- You shared
a sip of your pop with a child with peanut allergy after you had
been eating a product containing peanut.
- You stored
peanut butter cookies in a jar and then put in sugar cookies in
after without thoroughly washing out the cookie jar. The sugar
cookies would contain traces of peanut butter.
- Crafts or
games involving peanuts, craft items stored in used peanut butter
1) Another teenager at a summer camp in Ontario collapsed and died
in her mother's arms outside a school gym after eating a grilled
cheese sandwich made with butter that had also been used to make
a peanut butter sandwich.
2) A child died in Montreal after eating a cheese sandwich that
had been packed in the same bag as peanut butter sandwiches.
Even with these precautions, the safest rule for children with a food
allergy is that they should always bring their own snack from home
for special food activities. However, the policy of whether to allow
homemade goodies as snacks, and whether the child with a food allergy
is allowed to eat the snacks provided, must be a matter of agreement
among the caregivers, classmates' parents and the parents of the affected
child(ren). The reason parents are asked to bring in "peanut-free"
snacks is to reduce the very real risk of cross-contamination.
more information, contact the Allergy/Asthma Information Association
at http://www.aaia.ca. Also, look
up Dr. Weisnagel's peanut allergy research article at http://www.allerg.qc.ca/peanutallergy.htm
Revised August 2000.
of Use: The information
on this site does not constitute medical advice and is for your
general information only. We cannot be held responsible for anything
you could possibly do or say because of information on this site.
Consult your family physician or allergist for specific questions