What is the allergy risk of peanut in highly refined oils?

Refined peanut oils have previously been shown to be safe for most individuals with peanut allergy but it is difficult to guarantee that the oil is sufficiently refined to remove all traces of peanut protein. Due to shared production processes, refined non-peanut vegetable oils may also contain residual peanut proteins. To help inform allergen management practices, potential health risks from cross-contact between vegetable oils and refined peanut oil has recently been assessed.

International food allergen experts defined several scenarios for unintentional presence of allergens in finished food products based on the estimated production scale of refined peanut oil in the UK, estimated cross-contact between refined vegetable oils during production, and the peanut protein concentration in refined peanut oil. They then estimated the predicted number of allergic reactions to residual peanut proteins using probabilistic risk assessment.

For all products examined, the predicted risk of objective allergic reactions in peanut-allergic individuals was extremely low, such that the health risk from cross contact between vegetable oils and refined peanut oil was rated as negligible. All scenarios predicted allergen intakes well below the threshold response doses reported for the most sensitive individuals described in the clinical literature to-date.

In concluding their risk assessment, the scientists found none of the food products would warrant precautionary labelling for peanut according to the Allergen Bureau VITAL® Program.

Reference: Blom et al. 2017. Food and Chemical Toxicology. Vol.;106 (Pt A):306-313. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2017.05.072.

Co-authors Geert Houben (TNO) and Rene Crevel (Unilever UK) are members of the VITAL Scientific Expert Panel (VSEP). Read more on VITAL Science and the VSEP