How UNsafe is "Processed in a facility that also processes nuts"?

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We have a 4 1/2 year old son who tested 4/5 for peanuts and tree nuts. We had him tested around 2 1/2 and while we never gave him anything that we knew had nuts in it before we were aware of his allergy, I'm sure he must have had something that was labeled "Processed in a facility that also processes nuts". Thank god (and I'm knocking on wood!) he has never had an anaphylatic reaction. Now that we know of his allergy, we read everything and avoid anything with the mildest warning. He has occasionally gotten hives form something we were never able to identify (eventhough we don't give foods with the "facility warning) and were wondering just how important avoiding foods with the "Processed in a facility" is.

By MikesDad on Apr 26, 2009

Accidental double post, sorry

By MikesDad on Apr 26, 2009

Thanks Ruth, We stopped bringing home anything with any kind of nut warning when we found out our son was allergic, and would never give him anything to eat that had. My wife is concerned thought that if I eat something with the warning and later kiss him, he could react.

By BestAllergySites on Apr 10, 2009

Hi MikesDad-welcome to

Unfortunately there is no way to know how "safe" a food with a warning label is unless you test it. I know it seems extreme to avoid those foods but studies have shown that items with warning labels such as "may contain" or "processed in" have indeed had detectable amounts of peanut and nut protein. I believe up to 10% of products tested had some level.

It's a bit like Russian Roulette. Your son may not have had a reaction to date, but he may in the future. Batch one of pretzels might be fine, batch 2 may not. It's taking a chance and a risk.

Currently there are no labeling laws regarding warning statements. So companies put them there and some don't. I for one believe that if a company puts one there, it's not just for legal purposes but b/c they truly are not 100% comfortable with their cleaning practices or they don't test for allergens.

Some food allergic individuals do not avoid such foods with warning labels. I personally say, "why take the chance?".

For what it's worth, there is no difference between warning labels. "may contain" or "manufactured in" both had levels of detectable proteins in the study.

We too are avoiding pnut and tree nut and have been able to find safe foods. You just have to look a little harder and switch some brands.

Hope that helps! Ruth

By MikesDad on Apr 26, 2009

Thanks Barb, Our son has never had a reaction (to nuts) that we could pin on anything in particular. He has gotten mild hives a couple times, once from a virus and the other time we just never knew. The only reason we know he has the allergy is my wife had him tested and he reacted quickly with itchiness and hives. She has two brothers with peanut allergies. One can't eat anything, the other has been slowly eating more and more to desensitize himself, and so far successfully.

The thing is we don't have any real way of knowing whether our son is highly allergic like my wife's oldest brother, or less so like the younger. We don't want to find out the "hard" way.

By barbfeick on Apr 19, 2009

There are nut products in medicines and vaccines that do not have to appear on the label. It comes under "trade secret" protection. Your child probably got first exposure from being vaccinated.

Avoiding foods depends on the severity of the food allergy. People can eat food that they react to frequently if the reaction is minimal.

If your child has a fatal allergy, then you have to take every precaution.