You are here

Q: 
Some months ago I emailed the restaurant chain Chick-fil-A, to inquire about allergens in their products.  I was specifically interested in peanut, tree nut, and sesame allergens.  I was directed to the allergen statement on their website.  Among the information regarding common allergens, they have included the statement: "Chick-fil-A uses 100% refined peanut oil for all of our breaded chicken. According to the FDA, highly refined oils such as soybean and peanut oil are not considered allergenic, and therefore are not labeled as such." Is this accurate? Are refined oils considered safe for allergic individuals and exempt from labeling requirements?
A: 
The statement by Chick-fil-A is accurate in that the FDA has a legal document called the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection act of 2004 (FALCPA). The document states that “Under FALCPA, raw agricultural commodities (generally fresh fruits and vegetables) are exempt [from labeling requirements] as are highly refined oils derived form one of the eight major food allergens and any ingredient derived from such highly refined oil.”

Refined peanut oil is generally considered safe for most peanut allergic persons. This is thought to be due to the fact that most, if not all, of the protein is removed during the extraction process. There have been studies into whether reactions occur in peanut-sensitized individuals with exposure to refined peanut oil versus crude peanut oil. Those who participated in one study did not have a reaction to refined peanut oil and 10% had a reaction to crude peanut oil. Other studies are conflicting, showing that a small number of peanut allergic individuals may have a reaction to refined oils.

It is not currently clear whether there is protein if any in refined oils and whether this minute amount could cause an allergic person to react, but in general, most peanut allergic persons do tolerate refined peanut oil. What we do know is that the protein content of these refined oils is consistently about one hundredfold lower then crude or cold pressed peanut oil (100-300 micrograms). Consumption of crude or cold pressed oils would not be recommended, due to the protein content in these oils.