As discussed in the previous article (Food Allergy for Beginners: Proteins), primarily it is protein in foods that causes the majority of allergic food reactions. Our diet also contains fat (oils) carbohydrates (sugars), and minerals but these rarely cause true allergic reactions. This is an important point because many oils, such as peanut oil, are made from very allergenic nuts or seeds.
Is peanut oil safe to eat if you have a peanut allergy?
The answer to this question depends on the type of processing used to extract the oil.
Most vegetable oils used for cooking are produced using an extensive multistep mechanical and chemical process that begins by heating and crushing the seed or nut. The oil is then extracted using the chemical hexane. Additional steps may include adding acids and steam distillation. The final product contains so little protein that the FDA does not require oils processed this way to be listed as a potential cause of allergic reactions.
Chick-fil-a, a fast food chicken chain, uses peanut oil and posts the following information about food allergies:
“Chick-fil-A(r) cooks in 100% refined peanut oil. According to the FDA, highly refined oils such as highly refined soybean and peanut oil are not considered major food allergens and therefore are not listed here”
Oils may also be extracted from nuts and seeds using only mechanical press without heat or chemicals. This method produces much smaller amounts of oil but the oil produced retains more of the natural flavor and also may contain significant amounts of protein. For this reason, contact with cold pressed oils can cause allergic reactions if you are allergic to the nut or seed used to produce the oil.