How Much Peanut Protein is Really Lingering on Surfaces?

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Many families with food allergies don’t leave home without their baby wipes — the easy solution for cleaning off restaurant tables and airplane tray-tables that might be contaminated with allergen particles — particularly peanut protein.

But how much peanut protein is really lingering on surfaces? Mayo Clinic researchers presented their findings at the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) annual meeting over the weekend.

peanut protein

[ original photo source ]

The team tested the air and surfaces in different public locations to see if there really was a need to worry about peanut protein contamination. Here’s what they discovered:

  • Restaurants where peanuts were actively being shelled: Peanut protein was detected in the air (1.4ng/mL of Ara h2)
  • Restaurants with unshelled peanuts in the dining area: No peanut protein detected in the air, but lots detected on the table surfaces (41.1 ng/mL of Ara h2)
  • Restaurants without peanuts in the dining area: Very modest amount (.77 ng/mL of Ara h2) of peanut protein detected on the tables
  • Tables in public libraries: Very modest amount (.75 ng/mL of Ara h2) of peanut protein detected on the tables
  • Topping counters in frozen yogurt shops: LOTS of peanut protein detected (11,126.7 ng/mL of Ara h2)
  • Airplane tray-tables when peanuts were NOT being served on the flight: Moderate peanut protein levels (13.5 ng/mL of Ara h2)
  • Airplane tray-tables when peanuts WERE available on the flight: More than four times the amount of peanut protein you’d find at a restaurant with unshelled peanuts in the dining area (a staggering 175.3 ng/mL of Ara h2)

Breathe easy (or at least easier) because the researchers concluded that peanut protein exposure in public settings is most likely going to occur from touching a contaminated surface, not by inhaling the air — even if there are plenty of peanuts around.

It doesn’t take anything fancy to clean a surface of all peanut protein residue. Researchers have shown that common household cleaners do the job just fine, and so do pre-soaked cleaning wipes if you’re wiping down something like a restaurant table.

Hand-washing is important, too, and you can trust liquid soap, bar soap or wipes to remove traces of peanut protein. Liquid hand sanitizer, however, does not effectively remove peanut protein — neither does rinsing your hands under plain water.

Interestingly enough, it’s much harder to get peanut protein out of a mouth than a tray-table. Rinsing with water, brushing your teeth, chewing gum or waiting an hour? Nope, none of them work! The only thing that seems to lower peanut proten levels in the mouth is eating a peanut-free meal and waiting a few hours. This is a very serious issue for teens and adults with peanut allergies because of K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

So keep packing those wipes and scrubbing down surfaces that could be contaminated — we’re right there with you. ;)


Heather Laura Clarke, a contributing writer at Scratch or Sniff, lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, with her high-school sweetheart husband, seven-year-old son, and five-year-old daughter. She writes for newspapers and magazines across Canada and the U.S., and blogs about her family life at Heather's Handmade Life. Follow her adventures on Twitter or Instagram.

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