Nut-free: all about nuts

In today’s post we’re looking at nut allergies, and the challenges of nut-free living. To be clear, this blog doesn’t cover peanuts (as they are a separate one of the top 14… watch this space for that blog).

What does the legislation say?

Nuts, namely: almonds (Amygdalus communis L.), hazelnuts (Corylus avellana), walnuts (Juglans regia), cashews (Anacardium occidentale), pecan nuts (Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch), Brazil nuts (Bertholletia excelsa), pistachio nuts (Pistacia vera), macadamia or Queensland nuts (Macadamia ternifolia), and products thereof, except for nuts used for making alcoholic distillates including ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin

One nut-free or all nuts-free?

Many of the people I know with ‘nut’ allergies, are allergic to one or more, but not all nine… which makes the ‘may contain nuts’ label frustrating – why can’t the legislation be as for gluten, where products must be labelled with which gluten-containing ingredient poses the risk risk (so you never see ‘may contain gluten’, but ‘may contain wheat’ or ‘may contain barley’). Nut-free living is hard enough as it is.  And if you want to dive into ‘may contain’ labelling issues, take a look around here for example (I’ve already started lining up resources around this for my posts after I finish the top 14).

Almonds

Almond powder, used in a number of things but occasionally in gluten-free baking (while we’re on the subjects of allergens). You can be directly allergic to almonds, or, less commonly, allergic to birch pollen and gain a cross-sensitisation allergy (read more here). Almond is also found in handwashes and shampoos, leading to some skin issues, and in some gins so Jerry avoids these too, although of course non-foodstuffs and alcoholic drinks don’t have to be labelled (see legislation above).

Brazil nuts

Brazil nut allergy is thought to be the most common of nut allergies (excluding peanuts) and usually sufferers don’t grow out of it. This story is almost incredible, but at least the concept shows the care that partners of allergic people have to take too.

Cashews & Pistachios

Apparently these share a similar structure and you are very likely to be allergic to both, or neither, says the Anaphylaxis Campaign. It’s funny because they are not the nuts that I would have matched as most similar to each other. Cashews are also found in shampoos and are common in lots of cuisines.

Walnuts & Pecans

And we have another pairing, but at least these actually look similar to each other! Like almonds, pollen cross-sensitisation is possible, although most people have a primary allergy, says the Anaphylaxis Campaign.

Hazelnuts

Once again, we can have milder cross-sensitivity through to life threatening sensitivity. Often an ingredient/or a ‘may contain’ in chocolate, this one makes Jerry particularly sad!

Macadamia

The most obscure of the nuts (to me), seen in Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream and becoming more commonly found in dishes. Not much more to say on this – one to watch I guess?

What about: coconut, pine nut, chestnut…?

In America, coconut is classified as a nut, but not in Europe. In fact, it’s used quite commonly in free-from products (I’ve even made coconut whipped cream while testing out menus for this project). Appears to be taxonomically and anatomically different to nuts, but has lots of people with allergies to it.

Pine nuts are seeds, and while there are a handful of people with allergies to them, they don’t tend to be linked to allergies to other ‘nuts’.

Chestnuts are taxonomically and anatomically different to nuts and peanuts. Allergies are uncommon in the UK, although chestnuts make it into the top 8 in the US. Recommendation is that you don’t need to avoid chestnuts unless you actively know you’re allergic to them.

So that’s a quick whizz through some notes about nuts! As always, please share any resources or your own experiences 🙂

Thanks for reading this part of my series on the top 14 allergens. To find out what I’ve learnt about the other 13 please head to the blog series home.

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