Q: I’ve read differing views about peanut oil. Some say it’s safe for those with peanut allergy because it is “most often” highly refined and would contain no protein. The problem I have is, how would we know if it is the highly refined kind and therefore safe? What’s your view?
Dr. Sicherer: The trigger of peanut allergic reactions is peanut protein, not fat or oil. Highly refined peanut oil is generally considered safe for those with peanut allergy because the processing separates the protein from the oil. The resulting refined oil has negligible residual protein.
In contrast, “crude,” “extruded,” “cold-pressed,” “gourmet” or “aromatic” oils are not refined. These unrefined oils contain enough peanut protein to trigger an allergic reaction. The unrefined, gourmet oils may more likely be used in high-end products and by restaurants for added flavor.
You’re correct that there may be some confusion about what type of oil you may be getting, and it would not be safe to assume it is “most often” the refined type. This is why many allergists suggest avoiding all peanut oils to reduce risks.
If your allergist is comfortable with you consuming refined peanut oil, then you will need to take great care to ensure that you use only products with this type of oil. This will likely involve contacting a manufacturer or restaurant chain, and checking each time.
Dr. Scott Sicherer is Chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Together with Dr. Hemant Sharma, Associate Chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, he writes “The Food Allergy Experts” column in the American Edition of Allergic Living magazine. Questions submitted below will be considered for answer in the magazine.