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Common Food Allergy Triggers and Where They Hide

Peanut Allergies

Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies and is the leading cause of deadly food allergy reaction. Shaking hands with someone who has handled peanuts, or even smelling peanuts, can produce an allergic reaction. For some people, the reaction is so severe that it causes fatal anaphylaxis.

Peanuts are used in a variety of processed foods like ice cream (as a flavoring), marinades, snack foods, biscuits, baked goods, and candy. Certain ethnic dishes also contain peanuts or peanut oil: African, Chinese, Indonesian, Mexican (enchilada sauce), Thai, and Vietnamese. Some flavorings are nut-based. Peanuts are also used as a thickener in prepared foods. Many roasted and fried foods (including roasted chicken) contain peanut oil.

If you have a peanut allergy, be careful with other types of nuts. Although peanuts are technically a legume (a bean) that grows underground, you may be allergic to nuts grown on trees -- especially almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, and cashews.

Avoid these foods:

  • Peanuts, peanut butter
  • Beer nuts, ground nuts, mixed nuts
  • Cereal bars, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, granola/energy bars, muffins, pastries, baking mixes, cereals, crackers, muesli, granola, trail mix
  • Ice cream, frozen desserts, frozen yogurt
  • Artificial nuts -- used in baked products and hot fudge sundaes
  • Goobers, Nu-Nuts flavored nuts
  • Mandelonas (a nut substitute derived from peanuts)
  • Salads: Waldorf salad, curried chicken
  • Nutella, marzipan (almond paste), chocolate, nougat (used in candies)
  • Nut butters, pesto
  • Dried soups
  • Vegetarian burgers
  • Ethnic foods: Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Japanese

Look for these on food labels:

  • Peanut, peanut flour, peanut oil, peanut starch
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, plant protein, vegetable oil

Tree Nut Allergies

If you have a peanut allergy, you likely need to avoid tree nuts, too -- cashews, almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, and macadamia nuts. Also, be careful with coconut, chestnut, ginkgo nuts, and lychee (lichee) nuts as they are also considered tree nuts. Like peanuts, tree nuts are dangerous because they are hidden in so many foods -- even non-food products like lotions and shampoos.

Tree nuts are commonly found in:

  • Baked goods: cakes, cereal bars, cookies, doughnuts, energy/granola bars, muffins, pastries
  • Baking mixes, cereals, crackers, muesli
  • Trail mixes
  • Salad dressings, gravies, nut oils
  • Ice cream, frozen desserts, frozen yogurt, sundae toppings, chocolate
  • Sauces: Barbecue, pesto, Worcestershire
  • Salads: Waldorf salad, curried chicken
  • Spreads: Nut butter, almond paste (marzipan), cheese, chocolate nut, nougat, Nutella, Nu-Nuts
  • Nut-flavored coffee and liqueurs
  • Natural flavorings and extracts
  • Ethnic foods: Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian


Wheat Allergies

When you have an allergic reaction to wheat, it's really an intolerance to gluten -- the protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats. Wheat is found in many types of baked goods and breads -- from white bread to Indian naan, and is also found in rye bread. Even gluten-free bread may contain small amounts of wheat.

WebMD Medical Reference

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