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Eating out with peanut or tree nut allergy

While you can never completely remove the risk of accidental exposure to your food allergic trigger, some simple precautions will dramatically reduce the risk. First, ring your friends or the restaurant that you plan to visit and let them know of your allergy in advance. When you get there, ask to talk to the manager about any dishes that should be avoided, and ask them to let the chef know so they can take extra care in preparing your meal to reduce the risk of cross contamination. Don’t just rely on the menu descriptions of what is in the food. Some people even have a small snack before they go out, not to replace the meal, but so that they are not so hungry as to eat any food put in front of them without thinking first.

There are many traps for the unwary. Remember that pestos and dips may have nuts as an ingredient. And many trendy salads have nuts added for texture. Sometimes nuts can be added to gravies and sauces too. Think of the methods of cooking; are there really several woks that can be used in the kitchen, or only one?

Stop before eating food you have not prepared yourself. In teenagers or adults who are eating out, once you have gone through the process of talking to the chef and ensuring they can cater for your allergy, cautiously ‘touch-test’ a trace of food on your outer lip before putting it into your mouth. Tell-tale warnings of a burning/chilli-like reaction, tingling or swelling should alert you to the possibility that food allergen is present.

Finally, if you have been prescribed emergency medication (adrenaline autoinjector), always have it (and an ASCIA action plan for anaphylaxis) with you.

Foods that may contain peanuts/tree nuts/seeds

  • Baked goods 
  • Biscuits 
  • Cereals
  • Asian food 
  • Crackers 
  • Egg rolls
  • Ice creams 
  • Health bars 
  • Indonesian dishes
  • Kebabs 
  • Marzipan 
  • Mixed nuts
  • Pastries 
  • Peanut oil 
  • Natural’ flavourings
  • Peanut butter 
  • Sweets 
  • Spaghetti sauces
  • Soups 
  • Thai dishes 
  • Vegetable fats and oils
  • Pesto 
  • Arachnis oil 
  • Bouillon/Worcestershire sauce
  • Nougat 
  • Muesli 
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • Chocolates 
  • Cosmetics, moisturisers, massage oils (nut oils) 
  • Vegetarian dishes
  • Animal and bird feeds (contain seeds) 
  • Lotions, shampoos & creams, toothpaste, cosmetics, sunscreens 
  • Promethium (progesterone cream derived from peanuts)

Food that may contain tree nuts

Types of foods containing tree nuts include mixed nuts, some Asian foods, some commercial pasta sauces, some pestos (which may have other nuts as well as pine nuts), dips and savouries, slices or cakes, biscuits, some cereals, chocolates, muesli or health bars and almond icing. Many forget that almond icing or marzipan is nut derived. Occasionally nut products or oils have been used as unlabelled ingredients in cosmetics such as massage oils or even toothpaste and moisturisers.