Pink Peppercorns Causing Reactions in People with Tree Nut Allergies

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Food blogger Christina Conte never imagined a pepper blend would ever trigger her daughter’s severe nut allergy.

When her daughter was 14 years old, she was eating in a restaurant in Disneyland with her best friend’s family. The friend’s mother called Christina because she was worried she had ingested a form of tree nuts somehow. They were able to get the nuts out of her system — and didn’t need to use the EpiPen — but had no idea what caused her reaction.

Her daughter had eaten tortellini alfredo and focaccia, which the chef had assured her was all nut-free.

pink peppercorns

A few weeks later, Christina was browsing spices on Amazon and clicked on a Four Seasons Pepper Blend. She was surprised to see an allergy alert in the customer review section, advising people with cashew or nut allergies to be aware that the product contained brazil pepper, pink pepper, and Peruvian pepper. Pepper berries are in the cashew family, and Christina had a pepper berry tree in the backyard of her previous home — never realizing it had a connection to nuts.

Christina called the restaurant back and asked the chef if he had used that particular spice blend — he confirmed that he had.

Ever since, she has been spreading this message to families of people with nut allergies on her blog, Christina’s Cucina:

Pink peppercorns, pink pepperberries, pink berries, Peruvian pepper — and whatever else they may be called — are related to CASHEWS, and can cause an anaphylactic reaction in those who are allergic to CASHEWS/TREE NUTS.

If you or your child has a nut allergy, be sure to ask restaurants if their food is prepared using a pepper blend that contains pink peppercorns, pink pepperberries, pink berries, or Peruvian pepper.

H/T to Christina’s Cucina

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.

8 Comments to Pink Peppercorns Causing Reactions in People with Tree Nut Allergies

  1. Wow, I would never have guessed! Great idea to spread this info.

  2. Thank you so much for spreading the word, Heather! It is really scary not to know this information if you or your children have severe tree nut allergies. CC

    • Thanks for writing about it originally, Christina! We’re glad to be able to pass along your daughter’s story.

  3. Sharnie

    Thanks for posting this warning. We have just moved in to a house with a massive peppercorn tree and I have had countless locals suggest I use the peppers in my cooking. Thankfully, I haven’t. It is a very pretty tree, as most of the worst weeds are, but my son is highly allergic to it on contact. He gets large welts and blisters but until I read this article, I had no idea that I had an even bigger problem – I have a daughter with anaphylactic allergy to cashew nuts. Today I have approached my council to have the tree removed from the nature strip and another tree opposite our house but have to date been met with much opposition because this specific specimen of a severly invasive non-native weed is massive and adds to the streetscape. It is amazing how few people realise the potential danger in their yards or parks, as well as on their plates.

  4. Laura

    Wow, it’s true? A waiter refused to serve my tree nut allergic son a dish that contained pink peppercorns. What a smart guy! We never knew, ( and me an MD) thought he was wrong. Too bad the food was not very good, but good waiter.

    • Yup, the waiter was right, Laura! That’s amazing that he knew — it’s not very well-known at this point.

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