Those with severe peanut allergies soon learn to look for the 'peanut free sign' on any packaged food purchase. This is a notation found on a wide variety of packaged foods that states that the item has not been processed in a facility that also handles peanuts.
Why is such a sign important? Even if the food itself does not contain nuts, it may not be processed on equipment that is dedicated to nut-free foods. Cross-contamination could introduce small amounts of peanut residue into the product. Even microscopic amounts can be enough to cause an allergic reaction in someone with a severe peanut allergy.
You may be surprised at the wide variety of food types that could be cross-contaminated with peanuts. While baked goods and desserts are some of the worst offenders, the wide variety of food that is not peanut-free includes everything from fruit snacks to cans of chili.
The FDA requires manufacturers of foods sold in the United States to state on the label whether the food contains peanuts or tree nuts. It isn't enough to check the ingredient list for signs of peanuts; those concerned about peanuts must also look for a peanut free sign. You might be surprised at the number of times you see 'may contain peanuts' on the packaging of foods that you wouldn't think would contain nuts.
Teaching children with peanut allergies to check for the 'peanut free' sign is one of the first steps you can take towards ensuring that they are able to eat foods at school and in other public settings without risking an allergic reaction. For adults with food allergies, checking the label becomes an automatic step to protect themselves from allergens.