Can I eat at a restaurant that uses peanut oil if I have a peanut allergy?

Peanut oil surrounded by peanuts

If you or a loved one has a peanut allergy, knowing exactly what's in any given food you’re consuming is second nature. You may even recoil at the word “peanut.”

That instinct could lead you to automatically reject restaurants like Five Guys and Chick-fil-A, which make it clear they cook with peanut oil. While there are some reasons to still be cautious at such places, it turns out that the oil itself isn’t necessarily one of them.

Is peanut oil safe for me to eat if I have a peanut allergy?

Yes. Peanut allergy is caused by an allergic reaction to the peanut protein. Peanut oil is typically safe because it's highly refined and has almost no detectable allergen (protein). This is the type of peanut oil often used in cooking and frying and is safe for individuals with peanut allergy.

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically exempts highly refined peanut oil from needing to be labeled as an allergen the way “peanut” would need to be.

Does the severity of my peanut allergy matter?

The severity of the allergy does not matter when it comes to peanut oil, but the type of oil does.

Is there a difference in risk between refined and unrefined peanut oil?

Yes. Refined peanut oil goes through an extensive process that removes the protein/allergen, and this process is what makes it useful for high-heat cooking.

Unrefined (also known as cold-pressed, crude or gourmet) peanut oil does have peanut protein in it and should be avoided by people with a peanut allergy. This type of oil you might find used in a salad dressing or sauce, but it's not the same as cooking peanut oil.

Five Guys, for example, cooks with peanut oil but also has peanuts out in its restaurants. Could I be affected by the peanuts themselves if I were to either dine in or get a takeout order?

Yes, the risk in this situation is not from the peanut oil (which is also used in other fast food chains, such as Chick-Fil-A), but rather the cross-contact with peanuts themselves.

You should always alert food handlers if you or someone with you has a peanut allergy and make sure peanuts aren't coming in contact with your food. If they can't guarantee the food didn't come in contact with the peanuts, it's better to avoid that setting.

If I do consume peanut oil, what are some common peanut allergy symptoms if I do have a reaction? How severe are they, in general?

Highly refined (cooking) peanut oil shouldn't cause symptoms of a reaction.

The unrefined peanut oil (which may taste like peanuts), or accidental exposure to peanuts in a dish can cause any symptoms of allergic reaction, which may be mild or severe. These symptoms include rash, itchy sensation, swelling, sore throat, cough, congestion, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain or vomiting.

If you're concerned about allergic reaction, always refer to the plan and emergency medications prescribed by your doctor. 

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