People with peanut allergies can sometimes (maybe?) eat peanut oil — what’s confusing about that? Oh right, EVERYTHING!
Peanut allergic reactions are triggered by the protein within the peanut. But peanut oil goes through a rigorous refining process, where it’s purified, bleached, and deodorized. When it’s processed correctly, the proteins in the oil are removed — making it “technically” allergen-free, because it’s the protein that causes the reaction.
Although peanuts are one of the Top 8 major food allergens, the FDA has declared that highly-refined oils are not considered major food allergens, which is why it’s been found in household products as part of the “fragrance.” Studies show that “most (peanut-)allergic individuals can safely eat peanut oil,” providing it’s highly-refined to remove the protein.
Here’s the tricky part: not all peanut oil is highly-refined. Many types of peanut oil are incredibly dangerous for people with peanut allergies.
There are peanut oils that can still contain the protein, and they’re known as “crude,” “gourmet,” “aromatic”, “arachis” or “cold-pressed” oils. These unprocessed oils contain enough peanut protein to cause an allergic reaction — and unfortunately, they’re likely to be used in high-end restaurants because of their added flavor.
In 2013, a 19-year-old college freshman died after eating a cookie made with peanut oil. It is unknown if the oil was refined or “crude.”
Because there’s such a difference in peanut oils — some safe, some seriously dangerous — many allergists recommend that people with peanut allergies play it safe and refuse all peanut oils.
The trouble is that many restaurant meals are cooked in peanut oil — especially in Asian food and deep-fried fish, because the oil performs well at high temperatures. Restaurant chains Chick-fil-A and Five Guys exclusively use peanut oil for deep-frying because of its neutral taste and low saturated fat content.
The decision of whether or not to ingest peanut oil should be made by discussing it with your allergist. Whether you choose to let your child consume highly-refined peanut oil or not, you still need to ask the right questions — because not all oils are created equally.
If you’re ordering food in a restaurant, here are a few suggestions:
- Tell your server or the manager that you have a peanut allergy, and ask them to inquire if the kitchen uses peanut oil.
- If the kitchen uses peanut oil, find out if it’s highly-refined or gourmet/cold-pressed/aromatic.
- If they admit to using anything other than highly-refined peanut oil, either choose another restaurant or make sure you order something that doesn’t contain a trace of oil — and request that they use clean cookware to prepare your meal to prevent cross-contamination.
- If the kitchen assures you they only cook with highly-refined peanut oil, it’s up to you — and your allergist — if you feel comfortable eating a meal from the kitchen. Always carry your EpiPen just in case of a reaction.
Tell us: If you or your child has a peanut allergy, are you OK with highly-refined peanut oil?
H/T Allergic Living