What’s In My Non-Food Products?
Peanut oil and other top 8 allergens are often used in products outside of the food that you consume. I’ve touched on this briefly in some of my previous posts such as Pet-Related Cross-Contamination and in my newer post which includes a free PDF on Food Allergies and Cross Contamination.
Additionally, in my Resources tab I have a document I put together on ‘Non-Food Peanut Products’, which covers frequently used items I’ve discovered may contain or contain peanut ingredients. It isn’t extremely comprehensive and is not meant to remain up-to-date, but it is a resource I put together for others to get an idea of what types of products to be on the lookout for. It’s important to say that not all peanut-allergic folks will react to these items, everyone and every allergy is different.
Recently I got my hair colored and felt very itchy around the back of my neck afterwards. Funnily enough, the salon took it upon themselves to check the Redken product labels beforehand for anything with peanut oil, after I called to let them know about my allergy and asked about if there may be any snacks being around. It turned out they did have Reese’s cups out that they put away before I came in, and they were really understanding and cautious, I felt comfortable and knew I would just be extra careful to not touch my hands to my face and to wash my clothing afterwards, so I went in.
The Redken products didn’t list any peanut ingredients, but said they couldn’t be sure if it was truly peanut-free or not. This wasn’t surprising to hear, as I’ve e-mailed and called companies asking direct questions about if they use peanut oil and received vague, non-specific answers, essentially encouraging me that there may always be a chance so it’s an at-your-own-risk type of thing. This clears them of any potential liability, which is great for them, and not helpful for someone like me who wants to use the products but ideally needs a full ingredient list.
This isn’t the first time I’ve mildly reacted to a hair dye product that wasn’t labeled for peanut oil. The first time I had this mild response was to a red box dye by Vidal Sassoon, so I haven’t used their products since. It’s hard to know what is inside of products that contain naturally sourced oils, (“natural essences” “naturally derived dyes” or “natural scents”) , because non-food labeling requirements vary, and are often able to be left off the package if it’s a small bottle or box. The rules surrounding it aren’t as strict since it isn’t being “ingested”, however topically it can still cause a reaction, the skin is an organ after all!
There’s no requirement in the United States that requires if a product contains an allergen that it has to be fully disclosed to the consumer. Unless the item is meant for human consumption, the ingredients list can be much more relaxed and there’s no requirement for them to release the full ingredients list to the public.
I inquired before getting my first tattoo on the dye and had a hard time nailing down if it was risky for a peanut allergy or not, luckily it didn’t appear to be for me afterwards because we couldn’t determine anything super conclusive, but often tattoo dye is a risk for metal allergies, which I do have but isn’t as serious for me. In fact, most peanut allergies are also reactive at least slightly to some metals. I haven’t found sources to back this up, but have been told by multiple allergists, and it holds true based on others with food and peanut allergies that I know.
Often companies will make the argument that if an oil is highly refined, it often is considered as not containing any allergen components. I’ve personally found this to not be true– I’ve reacted to highly refined peanut oil cooked kettle chips before, and highly refined peanut oil used in a prepared meal. I tried these many years ago before my allergy worsened to the point it is now, and knew I needed to cut out refined peanut oil, and really anything that contains or may contain the peanut allergen, to limit my reactions. I suggest looking up the process of how they refine oils, and the exact definition of a refined oil. It is a fascinating and often a very toxic process, as they’re deodorizing, neutralizing, and bleaching the oil. There’s a SnackSafely article I like on the process, and it explains that the FDA exempts highly refined peanut oil from being labeled as an allergen. You can read more about this food allergy exemption from the FDA’s site from this rule put into place in 2004. Studies show that most individuals with peanut allergy can safely eat peanut oil as long as it is not cold-pressed, expelled or extruded peanut oil – sometimes represented as gourmet oils. This seems awfully complicated to have to look into, and why risk eating the oil of the very thing you’re deadly allergic to trace amounts of?
The products I listed on my Resources ‘Non-Food Peanut Products’ link that often contain peanut oil or peanut ingredients include: cleaning products, hair products such as shampoo/conditioners/hairdye, lotions, make-up, eye drops, nasal sprays, and various medications, dryer sheets, and the list truly goes on and on.
As you can tell, obtaining any full ingredient list or ‘may contain’ statement for a food product or non-food product can often be very tricky. It’s unfortunate that the majority of U.S. companies are this way. After my mild reaction the other day to the Redken hair product and/or hair dye, I contacted their company which is owned by L’Oreal , and got a lengthy templated/standardized e-mail back stating,
“most ingredients derived from these sources are highly refined and retain no traces of allergenic proteins, for less refined ingredients L’Oreal Group has established strict levels on the potentially allergenic proteins. We believe that this policy minimizes the likelihood of reactions to these proteins in the majority of sensitive individuals.”
This response is often what I get when inquiring on non-food products, and it later goes on to recommend you reach out to your medical care provider for questions, as per usual.
On that topic, I’ve asked my fair share of medical professionals and/or pharmacists about this, and most don’t know that companies often use peanut oil in medications and topical solutions. I once asked an allergist about a nasal spray and some eye drops that I’d seen on forums can contain peanut oil, and he said confidently, “they wouldn’t put an allergen in products that are supposed to combat allergies… Ah-ha-ha!” I pulled up the ingredient lists for products I was looking into that ACTUALLY CONTAINED “arachis oil” – the alternative name for peanut oil- and he was shocked. I only knew this after having joined the peanut allergy awareness groups online, where people will post about certain lotions and products they’ve discovered contain their allergen.
I’ve attached a few eye-opening examples from the peanut allergy forum below of products that contain peanut oil, one being an asthma inhaler:
Beware folks- and please feel free to let me know if you find any food products or non-food products that surprisingly contain peanut ingredients!
I’m certain people with tree nut allergies reading this are all too familiar, because those definitely are even more common to contain the allergen oil, and do not have to be disclosed. I personally use sweet almond oil and sesame oil on my body as a moisturizer, and I know walnut shells in skin exfoliators and hand soaps, or even “all natural” cleaning sponges are common.