"How to Read Labels for Risk of Nut Allergy"

Updated on November 24, 2008
K.D. asks from Byesville, OH
25 answers

My son's immune system is weak so he's been assigned to a disinfected table in the school cafeteria with two children who suffer from nut allergies. I need to be careful about what I send in his lunch or for shared class snacks. How can I be sure that I'm not putting the children at risk if the food packaging doesn't specifically state that the food was, or was not, made in a factory that also manufactures nut products? I've considered just purchasing "hot" lunches for him, but the school is still serving peanut butter and jelly on it's menu.

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So What Happened?

Thank you all so much for your responses. I will look for more information on the website www.foodallergy.org I also found out that my sister works with the father of one of the children with a nut allergy so I am sending a letter with my phone number and a list of potential snack foods for his wife to respond to.

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answers from Hickory on

Hi K.! I also have a son with a peanut allergy. He is also allergic to milk and egg. It is tough to learn how to read labels. I have learned that it is not labeled on the front like dairy is. If you look at the back where the ing. are, it should be listed under the ing. list. You can also find great web sites that teach you how to label read. My doctor gave me a list that gives you foods to avoid containing such allergies. Is he allergic to peanuts or tree nuts? That will make a difference! Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Does anyone have a specific list of snacks that are safe for kids with nut allergies to consume? My kids don't have food allergies, but do attend schools where it is an issue. When we are responsible for snacks, I struggle trying to find something the kids will eat at the general grocery store that is safe. I'm looking for specific products that are prepackaged - gold fish crackers, specific fruit snacks??? Any safe ideas? I have a child with other medical issues and I know how hard it can be to educate others.

Thank You.



answers from Lexington on

It's really silly that schools will separate children like that. You should talk to the principal. A lot of schools nowadays have gone peanut free because of the increased peanut allergies. As far as the labels, I would think that the laws on food labeling should protect you. My sister has children that were allergic to all kinds of food products. She had to make virtually everything from scratch.. including crackers! Good luck!

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answers from Philadelphia on

Here is a terrific website(Kids with food allergies): http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/
Check it out. It's a terific organization with plenty of support and info!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lexington on

As a person with excessive allergies (including nut) and a mother of children with nut and food allergies _ THANK YOU!!!

You can do your best to study package ingredients, and typically if there is an allergen included it is stated in bold type immediately following the ingredients: eg, "ALLERGY INFORMATION: WHEAT, SOY, MILK" or "This item manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts."

There are products that are manufactured with nut flour (ie, brownberry and arnold breads) that do not declare them. Keebler does some of this. Recently Tyson recalled their entire frozen chicken line because allergy information was excluded by the printer. We get our "inside" updates from THE FOOD ALLERGY & ANAPHYLAXIS NETWORK at foodallergy.org.

Keep in mind if they have a peanut allergy they are more than likely allergic to more than just that nut and its best to avoid all nuts. Also, as a safety measure, it's best to wash one's hands after handling food before touching anything. Example: child brings turkey sandwich on arnold wheat bread, touches table when getting up, allergic child touches same spot, and reaction commences.

Yeah. Food allergies suck.

again, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for your concern and consideration!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

ANY reference to nuts on the label could be deadly to a person allergic to nuts. The label may show that it "Contain nuts", "may contain trace amounts of nuts," or "processed in a facility that processes nuts." Check all labels. I thought it was strange to find the nut warning on jello pudding one time. Then, I realized that it was probably processed in the same facility as pistachio pudding. Go to www.foodallergy.org for more information.

My son has tree nut allergies. I appreciate your attention and concern for others. My son's allergies are to 3 tree nuts and are mild. Some kids can be affected by just touching something that touched the nut. While I have tried to educate everyone who may prepare his food, offer him a cookie, or piece of chocolate, I still find some just don't pay attention.

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answers from Louisville on

My daughter went to St. Paul's Episcopal pre-school in Louisville, and it was an entirely "nut-free" school. Like the mom/writer before me expressed, just out of courtesy for those with allergies, we really try to limit the exposure to nut products. I was told by the teacher about a child who had an allergic reaction after being kissed on the forehead by his father--Dad had eaten a Snickers bar on the airplane hours earlier! While at St. Paul's, we learned to be so careful about the transfer of nut exposure, one would think that the allergy was in my household. Once I got used to reading labels, it was pretty routine to know what foods might have been exposed to nuts (strawberry rolls? who would have thought!)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Be sure to check out the Chicago Tribune investigation on hidden food allergies, from their Friday, Nov. 21 issue. It is very, very detailed and a little overwhelming. But when you're dealing with food allergies, knowledge is power. I've had them all my life, and being the only kid in the school with food allergies is no fun, believe me. You just have to be proactive all the time.

Also, check out www.vikinc.mywildtree.com, which is my business website. The founder has kids with food allergies, and everything is 100% peanut free. Cross-contamination is not an issue, and ingredients are clearly listed on the website under "product information". If you have any questions about the labeling, contact me or the company direct. They are extremely sensitive to these issues and are great to talk to about any concerns.

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answers from Memphis on

Food labeling laws require all manufacturers to list any of the following 8 allergens in their foods:
* Milk
* Eggs
* Peanuts
* Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts)
* Fish (such as bass, cod, flounder)
* Shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp)
* Soy
* Wheat

And they also list if it is manufactured IN a facility that uses any of the above products as well. As a mom of children (and husband) with celiac disease, I am an avid label reader and know that I can trust what is on the label (at least as far as nuts are concerned--gluten is a whole other subject)

So please rest assured that if the product your son is taking to lunch does not list any nuts, there are none in it or was it manufactured in a facility where nuts are used.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Burlington on


As the mom of a child with severe nut allergies, I thank you for being so sensitive and thoughtful about keeping kids with allergies safe from exposure.

Unfortunately, while my daughter's classroom is completely nut-free, the cafeteria isn't, and she must sit in a segregated area to eat her lunch. Last spring she was exposed to nuts AT A SCHOOL POT-LUCK from a small cookie from the "nut free" table. Apparently this parent didn't realize that almond extract (in addition to the almond itself) was also an allergen. It was the most severe reaction my daughter had to date and required TWO epi-pen injections and 7 hours in the ER to bring it under control. I don't have to tell any parent that when your child can't breathe, nothing else matters! She does still eat school hot lunches because the staff is small and they have all been thoroughly trained about cross-contamination. Most days she brings lunch from home. Fortunately, she is also vigilant about anything she consumes whether it's at school or in a restaurant -- and she wouldn't dream of trading snacks or even taking a bite of someone else's lunch.

Something as simple as tiny peanut butter cracker CRUMBS on the fabric of a recliner (we weren't aware they were there)caused the back of her legs to break out in hives top to bottom. Some people are under the mistaken impression that hives are no big deal because they can be treated with Benadryl. The hives are just a precursor to what could be a life-threatening reaction. Door knobs, public toilets, movie theater seats and the like are all possible sources of exposure, so we reinforce a lot of handwashing (and surface disinfecting)-- especially before eating! Gratefully, no one is permitted in her classroom without washing their hands upon entry (kids and adults alike).

All of the responses I've read correspond with what I know about reading labels for nut content. We have a large healthfood store nearby and they are exceptionally helpful if I have any question about the contents of a particular product. Most of the products they sell have a very simple list of ingredients (very few, if any, preservatives), so my experience has been that it's much easier to determine questionable content.

Thank you again for your pro-active stance on this important issue! I wish you and your son good health and much happiness. Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Wheeling on

If you have problem reading them and understanding them. Go to the store or place were you got it and ask them how to understand them.
I hope I helped.



answers from Clarksville on

First I would like to commend you for your concern. I have a son with severe nut allergies and it is hard to get people to care, or to see the seriousness of it.

After reading the ingredients then look under it and it will tell if the product has been processed in the same factory as nuts. Also, don't just look there. Look all over the package. If it does not give an alert then it is ok. Also, here is another big alert: just because a product was ok last week does not mean it is ok this week. Manufacturers change their ingredients often. Also, one brand may be ok and another brand having the same food may not. Don't assume that all graham crackers are safe just because you looked at one box.
Again, thank you for caring about those other children. You don't know how much that means to their parents. It is a nightmare sending food allergy kids to school. When other parents cooperate it makes our lives easier. God bless.



answers from Charlotte on

Food allergies... our middle name. I'm so glad all you have to read for is nuts. This should be relatively simple. Read the whole list as the law does not state it must be listed at the end. This will change in Jan, 09, thankfully, saving tons of time. If it is processed in a plant that does handle nuts it will be stated. If it doesn't have a label at all don't buy it. The interest you've displayed is heartwarming. Often folks give a smidgen of concern, polite concern but you sense it's a bit fake. I thank you for all who endure this mine field of food allergies.



answers from Chicago on

Thank you for bringing up the issue! I am a former kindergarten teacher, mother of a peanut allergy kid and a children's birthday party planner (pieceofcakebday.com). Most parents do not realize that 99% of bakeries (Costco, Jewel, Dominicks, local bakeries,) can not guarantee nut free goods due to cross contamination! This is especially dangerous at birthday parties where kids are dropped off. Please be aware! I recommend making your own cupcakes/cake to make sure there is not nut allergens. Thanks again for being so concerned!



answers from Los Angeles on

Dear K.:

You may want to consult with an NAET certified practitioner to learn about this non-invasive procedure which cures allergies. Two of my grandchildren, and I, go to Dr. David Karaba at the East West Medical Group in Fullerton and have had many allergies cured. He is a wonderful man and very willing to spend time listening and explaining.

You can also research NAET on the web, and Dr. Nambudripad's Allergy research foundation.

Best wishes,




answers from Washington DC on

FYI...there are SO many kids with allergies these days (not sure why this is a recent occurrence..?) but all food manufacturers are aware. Just read the labels - but a suggestion for the kids that love PB&J sandwiches but can't send PB to school....SoyNut Butter is AWESOME. There are so many substitutions these days, they are EASY to find...two students in my daughter's class have nut allergies, so I have restrained from sending PB...but she gets tired of ham and cheese, so I found the Soynut Butter (in the PB aisle) and she loves it - tastes almost the same....and it's healthy. In my grocery store they actually have a whole section of 'safe' foods....



answers from Chicago on

I have a child who suffers from a nut allergy, and coming from a paren't perspective, we are responsible for educating our child about nuts, asking if there are nuts in anything, and to be cautious of nuts being around. So those kids that sit with your child at the table should be very aware of what they can and cannot have. It's part of the paren't job to educate them! AS far as the school, I am appauled that they are still serving pb&j for lunch, especially since they have a separate table just for allergies. It seems to contradict the goal they are trying to accomplish! So many school, churches, and other organizations are peanut free areas. That should be the next push at your child's school!!!



answers from Charlotte on

I have a 13 yr old daughter with a Peanut allergy. Thank you for being sensitive to others. I sometimes feel the parents look at me like I am an over protective mother when my daughter goes to sleepovers. I tell evey adult in the household she has a peanut allergy so please no peanut butter activites or checkout any candy or prepackaged foods. Luckily my daughter knows her allergy and reads everything. She has brothers and sisters that are not always so sensitive and will tease her. She takes it quite seriously and carries her purse with her asthma inhalor in it and her epi pen everywhere she goes.



answers from Nashville on

Have you tried to contact the school and possibly the parents of those two children? In case their allergies are more extensive than just peanuts, they would be the best source of info, and I am sure they would appreciate hearing from you. Kudos to you for being so caring!



answers from Seattle on

Both my sons are in "nut-free" classrooms (what, no nutty kids?! teehee!) We can't send peanut butter sandwiches. I can, however, send sunbutter sandwiches. That's butter made from sunflower seeds. I guess sunflower seeds are technically not a nut...or at least these particular kids and families are ok with it (we did check with them beforehand). We buy it at Fred Meyer or QFC (owned by Kroger, so maybe all Kroger stores carry it). Safeway does not carry it. I have been pleased with the taste and my kids are too...we actually prefer it to peanut butter now!



answers from Chicago on

I am a nurse. I was sitting at a nurses station and all of a sudden I could not breathe and felt that funny tingling in my lips and my tongue swelling. I could not figure out why, but did use the epi-pen and take the benadry (I always use liquid now) and I felt much better. Turns out people were eating peanuts at that nurses station and had touched the communal keyboard and phone. Sheesh....When will they ever learn? They had been warned but they felt it was "in my imagination". I was so angry, but you can't make others behave in a responsible manner, so now I wash everything before I use it. It takes so much time and puts me behind, but well worth it. It is not only children that have to put up with insensitive behavior.
You are so sensitive to the needs of others that you should be commended. You, and the others here, are in the minority.



answers from Los Angeles on

Hello K.,

My fourteen year old son has life threatening food allergies...75 foods. alphabetized from asparagus to walnuts. He has had a couple of close calls and is very responsible with what he eats. Label reading is paramount for alergy parents. I have learned that food companies are very good about listing "alergins" on their packages, for liability reasons and "nuts" are just "nuts". Egg, (a life threatening one for my son), is also referred to as "Albiin". Most "cafateria ladies" are wonderful if they know your child's allergies and you may want to have a meeting with them if you would like your son to have a "hot" lunch. This has worked for us.

Good luck,


answers from Phoenix on

This is my first year having a student with peanut allergies in my classroom. I immediately went to foodalleries.org and printed off a 'Nut and Peanut Allergy Diet: Foods That Might Contain Nuts' list. I have it posted at my desk. I was surprised to see some of the foods which might contain nuts,
included salad dressings and even BBQ sauce. I READ labels, as snacks are brought in to our class. The list I printed has ingredients to watch for.
I thought I was being safe and bought butterscotch chips instead of chocolate chips... I have a student allergic to chocolate (poor child). After making my purchase I read the pkg which states may have been produced on a machine used for nuts.
Also a parent trying to be mindful of the allergy sent in 'Ants on a Log', some with peanut butter and some with cream cheese. However though separated they were all in the same container, so I did not allow him to have any.
The parent of the boy with the allergy told me he has not had a severe reaction, but sent in an epi-pen to help me feel safe. I still worry that if he does have a reaction while in class that it might be the one that is severe, as I understand allergies and the reactions can become worse over time. Sometimes they can also go away in younger children. Probably not the ones which include peanuts and nuts. Good luck!!



answers from Seattle on

Our local schools (Lk. Wash. School District) have policies about no nuts, and no longer allow parents to send homemade items to school for class parties, etc.

I understand the reasons for these restrictions, because I'm lactose intolerant and my daughter has Strawberry allergies (and nearly all the fruit snacks that people send to avoid nuts have strawberry in them). But I still get mad that the one food my daughter will reliably eat at lunch (PB&J) is no longer an option.

Even then, if your child is really that sensitive, you are likely going to have to make your own food and snacks and not rely on processed foods or school foods at all.



answers from New York on

As a parent of a son with MAJOR food allergies, I would like to say THANK YOU!! So many people are insensitive to this issue b/c they don't understand it. You are going out of your way to learn more to keep other children safe and should be commended for it :)
I read all of the other posts and the only other thing I want to add is that coconut is considered a nut too. So watch out for that ingredient as well as palm oil. depending on the severity this could be a problem. Thanks again for your concern and I hope your little guy is doing well too!

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