Tree nuts and peanuts

Peanuts (a legume) and tree nuts (all other "true" nuts including almonds, Brazil, cashew, cobnut, hazelnut, macadamia, pecan, pistachio, walnuts) are often grouped together as cross reactivity between these food groups occurs frequently.

Here are some points to bear in mind when catering for nut and peanut allergies:

• A person may not be allergic to all nuts but it is safest to avoid them all. As with other allergies, proteins cause the reaction. Cooking nuts will not reduce the risk of an allergic reaction to them; in fact, roasting peanuts makes the reaction worse.

• Reactions should never be ignored even if they are mild, because future reactions may be more severe. A person may have a mild reaction, such as localized tingling, itching, or a rash, to a small or to a significant amount of peanuts or tree nuts. Breathing or swallowing difficulties or fainting calls for immediate medical attention.

• Some people may react to a tiny trace of nuts or peanuts, hence "trace" warnings on packaging. For this type of allergy, take no chances with ingredients or cross contamination.

• Skin contact with nuts or peanuts may cause rashes and swelling of the lips if someone has a severe nut allergy. Handling the nuts may transfer the allergen to inside the mouth. Even airborne proteins may cause a reaction.

▲ American pancakes (p.57) has versions free of each allergen and Thai green chicken curry (p.111) is naturally free of them all.

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