Friday, December 10, 2010

Peanut Allergies, Nut Allergies and Vanilla Extract

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!


Lindsay said...

This is good to know about McCormick! :)

Unknown said...

So happy to have found your blog! As a mom of a child with wheat, soy, peanut, and tree nut allergies- it's more than just gluten free out there! Look forward to your info.

Doreen Lombardo said...

I just discovered I have a tree nut allergy within the past 6 months. I love your blog.

ldfs said...

Coming to this discussion very late, but found the post while doing some research on apricot kernels. Turns out that apricots (and peaches and some other fruits) are so closely related to almonds that if you/your child is allergic to almonds, they are also very likely to have a reaction to something made from apricot kernels, such as many of the almond extracts. See

Sandy horton said...

Hello. First time to leave a comment. My daughter and myself are both anaphylactic. My daughter to all nuts and myself to that and so many more things This site is so amazing. It has been a very challenging for both of us for many years learning how to manage our allergies. My question is this. Is there a site for young teens to blog, share feelings about how they manage their allergies. My daughter is 11. I have not found a good site yet for teens. Any help would be great. We do read allergic living but kids need their own site to see and feel that they are not alone in this journey. Thanks for any help. Oh yes. Just found your site when I was googling a cake mate products.

Jenny said...

Hi Sandy--Great question! I agree--teens and tweens need their own places to go and read about food allergy.

I have several suggestions for you. First, FAAN has its own special teen section. Please go to their website and give it a look with your daughter.

You mentioned Allergic Living--they just did a story on teens and young adults and how they handle food allergies. Great article--in their current winter issue!

Lastly, run by Nicole Smith has a section called "Morgan's Corner"--that's her 15 -year-old son's blog. He is a great food allergy role model and was profiled in the recent Allergic Living magazine I just spoke about.

I sometimes talk about issues facing older kids on this blog and it is something I will be doing more of as my daughter faces new challenges. She also is going to write her own post for me, so check back to see it soon!

Glad you found us and hope you continue reading!

rachel said...

Do you by chance have any suggestions for clear vanilla extract? Or have you ever used regular in icing and noticed any major issues with color? My daughters bday is Saturday and I just realized that Wilton is so non PA friendly. I'm hoping my hobby lobby carries americolor or I will be paying a fortune for shipping!

Yarngineer TM said...

Please also look into Penzey's. They are a family spice company. They sell Almond extract, but they say it is manufactured by another company and is not done in their facilities. We don't use any almond extracts, but we definitely use the Penzey's vanilla and it is safe. WE are PN/TN and egg.

I find it interesting McCormick's tells some people they are safe. They told me that their spices and mixes are not safe. I did not inquire about the extracts at the time. I have pretty much stopped using their products because of this.

Jenny said...

I've called McCormick's several times and they have assured me each time they are a nut-free facility. They said their products would reflect any allergen info. Everyone should use what they are comfortable using and do their own research, always. And check/read labels.

It's always up to the consumer regarding what you decide to use.

Rachel, I don't know of a clear vanilla extract other than Wilton, at least that I've seen at stores. Sorry!

Unknown said...

So appreciate this blog. As a mother and wife to both my son and husband who have life-threatening allergies, I appreciate community forums such as this that serve to educate and empower. Living in another country definitely puts another spin on it and I am always searching to read up on current 'trends' in the allergy safe arena. Thanks you!
Katie O'Grady

Anonymous said...

I know this post hasn't been active in a while, but I contacted McCormick this week and after asking a second time about labeling for cross-contamination and nut/peanuts in their facilities, here is the response:
"Thank you for taking the time to contact us. We appreciate your interest in our Kitchen Basics Products and welcome the opportunity to be of assistance to you.

Kitchen Basics products are not labeled for possible cross contamination and the facility in which they are made may not necessarily be peanut or tree nut free. We do, however, test the end products for these allergens that may be in the facility: milk, eggs, peanuts, and glutens. They are tested for the absence of these allegens to 5ppm. Our raw materials must not contain those ingredients as well as soy, tree nuts or corn. Additionally, the production plant follows safe practices and cleans, sanitizes and inspects equipment between any changeovers of different products."

Like you've said, everyone has a different comfort level. We don't think it should be up to the companies to decide if something is safe enough for our peanut allergic child. I want to know if there is any possibility of cross-contamination, so we can make the decision ourselves.

Jenny said...

Thanks for your info.

I want to be careful to note that each product may be different.

This post concerned extracts and in particular McCormick brand extracts and spices. I have contacted them yearly and been told that the extracts are made in a nut-free facility. Same goes for the basic spices. So that was my question to them -- I was very specific. Based on their answer about extracts and basic spices, I still feel fine with using them and do use them. Anyone who doesn't want to though--your own judgment should be your guide.

They have told me to check individually the spice blends -- those come under a different name and are made in a different facility. Kitchen Basics is a broth, not an extract, just so everyone reading knows that it is a different product.

Because the company is so large, they likely have several manufacturing facilities. It sounds like they use good practices, however, the tricky part is that according to the law they do not have to list "may contains" information. I agree-it would be nice to have that on every label without calling.

I appreciate your comment because it shows how each product must be evaluated, especially a complex item like a sauce or a broth.

Thanks for taking the time to share the response about Kitchen Basics broth products!