Peanuts are a legume crop primarily cultivated for their edible seeds. You may be surprised to learn that peanuts aren’t a true nut, although peanuts contain proteins similar to those found in tree nuts. Peanuts grow in the ground, whereas other nuts grow on trees – hence the name ‘tree nuts’. Peanuts are found in various forms such as salted, roasted, peanut butter and also in particular chocolates
Some people are severely allergic to the arachin and conarachin proteins found in peanuts. Approximately 200mg of protein are found in each peanut. People with peanut allergies usually experience symptoms after eating less than 1 peanut.
What is a Peanut Allergy?
Peanut allergy is one of the food allergens most commonly associated with anaphylaxis – this is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Its signs/symptoms can include: feeling lightheaded, shallow breathing, a fast heartbeat, collapsing or losing consciousness.
The 14 main food allergens are: milk, eggs, celery, mustard, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, crustaceans, soya, cereals containing gluten, molluscs, sesame, lupin, and sulphur dioxide (sulphites).
According to AllergyUK, peanut allergy affects around 1 in every 50 children in the UK and the figures have been increasing in recent decades. People sometimes outgrow certain food allergies (such as allergies to eggs, milk, and soya), but most people with peanut and tree nut allergies suffer from them their entire lives.
It is possible to be exposed to peanuts in different ways:
- Direct contact: Peanuts and peanut-containing foods are the most common cause of peanut allergy.
- Cross-contact: In this case, peanuts were accidentally introduced into a product. It usually results from the exposure of food to peanuts during processing or handling.
Is Peanut Allergy Hereditary?
There is still a lot of research being conducted on allergies, but many studies suggest that peanut allergies can be inherited. According to research, your genes can have a strong influence on the chances of developing the allergy. Genetic and environmental factors can lead to peanut allergy as children with existing egg allergies are more likely to develop a peanut allergy.
According to the NHS, “you have a slightly higher chance of getting a food allergy if you or a close family member have other allergies, asthma or eczema”.
Peanut Allergy Symptoms May Include:
- Abdominal pains
- Breathing difficulties
- Difficulty swallowing
Can Peanuts Be Found in Soup Stocks and Pesto?
Peanuts can be found in chilli and soup, as peanuts or peanut butter are sometimes used as thickeners. Pesto sauces are also often filled with nuts, usually walnuts and pine nuts, but they may also contain pine nuts (pignoli) or other smooth, white nuts.
Some High-Risk Peanut Allergy Foods to Avoid:
- Cookies, biscuits, and cakes
- African, Indian, Mexican, and Asian foods (especially Indian, Chinese, and Thai)
- Frozen desserts and some ice creams
- Vegetarian and vegan burgers
- Cereals and granola
- Nut extracts, like almond extract
List Peanuts on Food Packaging:
It is vital for anyone with a peanut allergy to carefully check the labels of foods and drinks to avoid eating peanuts by mistake, but it’s also critical that food businesses (restaurants, caterers, and food producers) highlight and communicate that peanuts are present in foods via labels and menus.
There are different ways used to list peanuts on the packaging. Some include, but are not limited to:
- Earth nuts
- Peanut butter
- Beer nuts
- Nut pieces
- Peanut protein
- Monkey nuts
- Spanish peanuts
- Peanut flour
- Ground nuts
- Mixed nuts
Peanut oil is labelled as an allergen. There are two types of peanut oil: highly refined peanut oil and unrefined (‘gourmet’) peanut oil. Highly refined oils appear to be safe to eat by those with food allergies, as highly refined oils contain minimal levels of allergenic protein. Allergy sufferers will have to decide whether they feel safe having highly refined peanut oil in their food. Unrefined peanut oil similarly contains peanut protein, and food businesses must clearly list on an ingredient label as “peanut”. Those with peanut allergies should avoid peanut oil of this type.
LiberEat - Allergen Error Detection Software
Food allergen rules and regulations continue to change and evolve. Food businesses in production, hospitality, catering, and retail must be vigilant when working with ingredients, products, and dishes containing allergens and exercise due diligence when providing ingredient and allergen information to consumers. Successful allergen management is a big part of Food Safety professionals creating a culture of care and excellence within their teams.
LiberEat offers a second line of defence for food businesses by detecting errors, allergens, and other harmful ingredients with our proprietary Allergen Detection Software. Food businesses can apply this technology directly to identify errors in allergen communications, preventing the risk of injury to consumers. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your existing food safety processes.
LiberEat works closely with food businesses to ensure consumers are safe and healthy when consuming your produce.
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