I'm running the following post again, for those who may have missed it.
With the holiday baking season upon us, I've had several e-mails about the safety of vanilla and other baking extracts. This is obviously a big concern for those of us who bake nut-free because most companies also produce almond extract.
A word about almond extract--you'll notice that some of these brands say that it is not produced from actual almonds, but from the pit of certain fruits.
Please be advised that apricots and peaches can be cross-reactive for tree nut-allergic people because these fruits are in the almond family.
I personally recommend avoiding almond extract if you are dealing with almond and other tree nut allergies. Also, with some of the more "gourmet" brands, you may be dealing with pure almond and also cross-contact issues on the production lines. Why even go there? I am uncomfortable using "almond" anything for someone with an almond allergy. Of course, please check with your allergist if you have more questions about this.
Now, back to vanilla. I contacted three of the biggest manufacturers of vanilla extract and baking products: McCormick, Nielsen-Massey and Wilton. I'm very happy to report that 2 out of 3 of them don't even use "real" almond for their almond extract. Wilton, as most of you may have discovered already, is the most challenging, since they do have peanuts and tree nuts in their facility, even though some items are not sharing production lines. If you'd like to use their products, I'd say it's your call to make. Also, you may have to do some digging about each individual product. Their response below contains more info.
Here's what each company had to say in response to my e-mails inquiring about the safety of their extracts.
McCormick: "McCormick and Co. does not use peanuts or tree nuts in any of our facilities. The Oil of Bitter Almond used in our Pure Almond Extract is extracted from apricot kernels, not the almond itself."
Note: I asked specifically about extracts in my e-mail. McCormick now makes many spice blends beyond their basic extracts and spices; they make other products as well. If you have concerns about other products, give them a call.
Nielsen-Massey: "All of our products are nut free. We do not process anything with tree nuts in our facility. In fact our Almond Extract is actually made from bitter almond oil which comes from stone fruit pits such as peaches. Please be assured that all of our products are safe from nut allergens."
Wilton: "I have attached a link from our website that displays our vanilla extracts and the following allergy information:
No Peanuts/treenuts in the product but there are peanuts/treenuts present in the facility
No Peanuts/Treenuts in the product but there are peanuts/treenuts present in the facility
As far as our sprinkles and decorations are concerned, because we are very specific when it comes to food allergies, if you would kindly provide me with a few stock numbers from our website of some decorations that you are interested in because we want to make sure that we provide you with the correct information."
Consumers, please note: It is up to you to check each product you use. In fact, as practices change, it is a good idea to check labels or call for info from time to time. I do this with my favorite products as well as new ones, and I suggest you do the same for your own information and peace of mind. Thank you!