One of the most stressful allergies to have may well be the peanut allergy. While other foods may be more prevalent (dairy and soy for instance are a main ingredient in many off-the-shelf foods) the likelihood that a manufactured food (cookie, cake, cracker) is processed in a facility where other products that include peanuts manufactured is quite high.
Specifically, the same equipment can be used to create a peanut containing granola bar as some peanut-free cookies. But the question remains, was that equipment properly cleaned between manufacturing the granola bars and the peanut-free cookies? For legal and liability reasons, manufacturers will conclude that the equipment may not have been properly cleaned and rightly so include this allergen warning on the label. A few months ago a friend of mine’s daughter did take a cookie from another friend’s house. The cookie did not outright contain peanuts, but this little girl did have a reaction from the cookie, which was manufactured on equipment shared with peanut-containing products.
Although laws have been put into place for the United States, specifically The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 requires that by January 1, 2006 manufacturers identify clearly on their food labels if a food product has any ingredients that contain protein derived from any of the eight major allergy foods and food groups: Dairy, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. But what of food manufactured outside the United States? For instance another friend of mine called Mexico to learn if peanuts ever touched manufacturing equipment that was used to create candy sold here in the United States. Her findings where less than satisfactory--she received mixed messages and felt no confidence that the response was accurate.
So no one argues that stress parents have from dealing with their child’s peanut allergy is easy or light, but parents can find a bit of solace in several ways. First, read about other parent’s experiences and how they have successfully dealt with the peanut allergy in their own children. Many parents interviewed between pages 73 and 147 in Flourishing with Food Allergies, have successfully dealt with the peanut allergy.
Secondly, don’t give in when selecting foods for your child--continue to select foods that are not manufactured in a facility where peanuts are used. Research what products have peanuts in them and under what names peanut-ingredients hide. See pages 242 and 243 in Flourishing with Food Allergies for this detailed information. Then take it a step further and email the manufacturers asking them to move their peanut containing products to a separate facility. It may not happen right away, but eventually manufacturers will get the message and may reorganized their facilities in the hope of selling more products.
Third, consider the advancement made on the peanut allergy front. Reuters recently reports, “In one study, teams at Duke University in North Carolina and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences gave fifteen children tiny, but increasing, doses of peanut powder and compared them with eight children who got a placebo. At the end of the year-long study, children given the treatment were on average able to tolerate fifteen peanuts before having an allergic reaction. ‘We started out literally at about a one-thousandth of a peanut and built that up over time,’ Dr. Wesley Burks of Duke, who helped lead the study, said in a telephone interview. ‘When you take the daily dose it changes your immune system in a certain way and it raises the threshold of how much food it takes to cause a reaction,’ he said.”
Fourth consider other ways to protect your child. For instance, learn your rights by law using a 504 plan or allergy action plan for school safety. Consider contacting your child’s teacher to ask if you can give students a presentation on your child’s peanut allergy. Take proactive steps when traveling on planes, trains or to other countries to determine the standards and guidelines that can best serve you and your child. This topics are discussed in Chapters 46 through 51.
 Reuters, Maggie Fox and Cynthia Osterman, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE62056B20100301, March 1, 2010