Updated: Mar 12, 2021
As an adult with a severe peanut allergy I have always struggled with finding foods that are safe for me to eat; foods that are peanut free and processed in a peanut free facility. The FDA does not require brands to include a 'may contain' or 'processed in a facility with' section on a food's label. When you see this notice on a product label it is voluntarily placed there by the company. I am always relieved when I see cross contamination risk listed on a food label. Either it reassures me that a food is safe for me to eat, or it lets me know with definite certainty that a food is in fact not safe to have due to the risk of cross contamination.
But, I began to wonder, what do you do when a label does not list anything about any cross contact risk? Is it still safe to eat, does not seeing any 'may contain' notice on the label mean there are no peanuts present in the facility? I used to think that if there was no warning of cross contact on the product's label that the food was safe for me to eat. However, as I reach out to more and more brands to create my No Peanuts Lists I am realizing that nothing could be further from the truth. What I am in fact discovering is that the majority of the time there is a cross contamination risk with peanuts being present in the processing facility, but the company just chooses to not include this vital information on the product's label.
I’ve written on this blog about discovering that many Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil’s are not what they say they are, and are processed in a facility with peanuts, making them not safe for those of us with a peanut allergy to eat. After discovering that the Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil I had been purchasing at Whole Foods is made in a facility with peanuts (you can read about this on another blog post here) I wanted to find an Olive Oil that I could feel safe eating without any risk of any peanut cross contamination. I also wanted to support a company that offered transparency with the production of their Olive Oil and food products.
I love shopping every Sunday at the Santa Monica Farmers Market and I try my best to support local farmers whenever I can. At the Farmers Market I am able to ask any questions I have face to face with the farmer/brand representative. You skip the middle man and get beautiful, fresh, local produce, and food products, without any worry of there being something unexpected in your food, or the processing facility. I decided that this was the perfect place to start my hunt for a Extra Virgin Olive Oil that is processed in a peanut free facility, one that I could feel safe eating and know is 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I visited the Buon Gusto Farms stand and they were incredibly nice, and happy to answer all my questions. They informed me exactly how they make all their products and they proudly let me know that their facility is peanut free, so I didn't need to worry about any risk of cross contamination.
I now use all Buon Gusto Farms Olive Oil’s & vinegar's in my cooking, and I am happy to report that they are absolutely delicious. I have been using their Extra Virgin Olive Oil on basically everything, including on salads, and to saute chicken and veggies.
In addition to Olive Oil Buon Gusto Farms also produces wonderful vinegar's, on my daily salads I switch between using their champagne pear vinegar and the pomegranate balsamic vinegar. I also recommend the balsamic vinegar for marinading chicken, I mix balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dried thyme, sea salt and red pepper flakes and pour the mixture over a couple bone in chicken breasts in a zip lock bag and let it marinade in the fridge for 3-4 hours before cooking the chicken, it always comes out super delicious.
As I reach out to more and more companies I’m discovering that the smaller, more local companies offer more transparency than the larger brands, and all these smaller brands have been happy to answer my inquiry if peanuts are present in their processing facility. If you’re struggling like I am to find foods that are free of any allergens and free allergen cross contamination your local Farmers Market is a great place to start.